STRUTHERS, Ohio (WYTV) – A lifesaving donation from a perfect stranger is something you don’t hear about every day, but a story from here in the Valley shows how a woman from Struthers and a young college student from Indiana came together under unlikely circumstances.
Missy Ginnetti’s long battle with cancer started in 2010. Treatment put her in remission but she relapsed. Doctor’ told her she needed stem cells from a donor. But with no brothers or sisters in which to receive donor cells, she was put on a registry. That is when Daniel Cox, a college student in Indiana, got a call saying his stem cells could save someone’s life.
Daniel recently met Missy, the person who would receive his stem cells.
“We are more biologically connected than we are to our own families. I call him my genetic twin,” Missy said.
Missy is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant using Missy’s own stem cells didn’t work. Her immune system was working against her.
She went into the Be the Match System. The program matches donors with patients, but some people on the registry never get the call that there is a match for them.
Hundreds of miles away in Indiana Daniel Cox joined the registry willing to donate to a stranger if he ever got the call.
“I was watching TV when I happened to come across a special about Robin Roberts and how she got her bone marrow transplant through Be the Match, and I never heard of it,” Daniel said. “I was a blood donor and stuff, so I thought that was interesting.”
Daniel wrote a speech about it for a class assignment and signed up for the program.
“Getting that call that I was the perfect match, and I was ready to get started,” Daniel said.
With a needle in each arm, doctors started what became an eight hour process for the donation.
There are strict rules about how much information about a donor and his or her recipient can exchange in the first year. Daniel and Missy wrote letters.
“We weren’t allowed to give names or specific places or where we are from or anything like that,” Missy said.
Daniel really wanted to meet Missy and they agreed that they would.
“I wanted to know her and meet her really bad, and she told me she wanted to meet me really bad, we were really looking forward to that year to be up so we could finally meet,” Daniel said.
That meeting finally happened in March in Dayton, a few days before Daniel’s 21st birthday.
“That meet up was the best birthday present you could ask for,” Daniel said.
The meeting meant a lot to Missy, too.
“It was incredible. It was amazing. I guess you can’t understand unless you have been in my position what someone like that – a perfect stranger just does something like for someone they have no connection to,” Missy said.
Missy and Daniel consider each other family. Daniel even spent a few days in Youngstown this month visiting with the Ginnettis.
Missy is now cancer free and visits doctors in Cleveland once a month.
Words can’t describe how thankful she is for Daniel – a complete stranger turned friend who will always be a part of her. Daniel says registering to be a donor was simple and encourages anyone to think about becoming one.
Donors are accepted between the ages of 18 and 44. A complete list of requirements and information on how to register can found at Be the Match.org.