Merv's bone marrow saves a life
By ALLAN McNEILallanm@gladstoneobserver.com.au
MERV Hinneberg saved the life of Debbie Jones before they ever met.
After living with leukaemia for 42 years, Debbie's only hope was a bone marrow transplant from a person she had never heard of ? that's where Merv came in.
'There are no words you can use to express what it meant. All I can do is say thank you to Merv,' Debbie said.
As an anonymous bone marrow donor, Merv was never meant to find out whose life he helped save.
'We were in the same hospital at the same time but I never knew who she was,'' Merv said. "And that was just fine. I didn't want to know who was getting my stem cells.'
But after some time, curiosity got the better of them both and Debbie tracked down the man whose bone marrow now grew in her body.
'The first meeting was fairly emotional, I had a bit of a cry,' Debbie said.
Debbie and Merv (pictured left)will be guest speakers at the launch of the Gladstone Walk of Hope tomorrow.
The walk will see seven locals walk from Gladstone to Brisbane to raise $100,000 to build an accommodation unit in Brisbane for families of leukaemia patients.
The lack of accommodation available for families of leukaemia patients is something Debbie knows about only too well. Her mother, partner and son had to share a one-bedroom unit while she underwent treatment.
Debbie was first diagnosed with her illness as a six year old.
Despite a number of different treatments, it wasn't until her transplant in 2003 that she began to overcome the disease.
'Someone asked me what it was like to feel normal now. But I don't know what it's like to feel normal because I've been sick my whole life,' Debbie said.
Yesterday as she sat next to the man who saved her life, a man she has only met once before, Debbie explained what it meant for her and her family.
'If it wasn't for Merv I wouldn't be here,' she said.
'My kids absolutely adore this man now, even though they don't really know him.'
For Merv the decision to become an anonymous bone marrow donor stemmed from the death of a friend of the family.
'When our friend died the whole family went on the bone marrow register,' Merv said.
'It's one of those things you do and don't expect anything to happen, but it did.'
When he was in Brisbane donating his bone marrow, Merv was asked by a taxi driver why he would go out of his way to help someone he didn't even know.
'I just asked him, if it was your children who were sick and needed help from someone you didn't know would you want that person to help? He just stared at me and said yeah I suppose I would.'
Now Merv is encouraging everyone who is able to join the register.
'It's so easy, you just fill out a form next time you give blood,' Merv said.
'People think it's this painful obtrusive thing, but these days it isn't, it's very easy.'