Kathleen Janssen will never forget Easter 2013. That's when she and her family got the news about her 8-month-old grandson, Ari Meyer.
"His body wasn't producing T cells," says Janssen, who lives outside St. Paul, Minnesota. "He had been in the hospital for ear infections and pneumonia, and no one knew what was wrong. Then we got the diagnosis."
The news wasn't good. T cells, which are a type of white blood cell, form an essential part of the immune system. Ari's body wasn't producing them because he had Hyper-IgM, an extremely rare auto-immune deficiency.
How rare? "Only two in every 1 million children have it," Janssen says.
His doctors recommended a marrow transplant. The trouble: Like 70% of patients, Ari didn't have a matching donor in his family. "It was a scary time," Janssen says with some understatement.
A donor steps up
Ari's physicians explored options with Be The Match, a Minneapolis-based organization that provides marrow transplants from volunteer donors around the U.S.
As fate would have it, there was a match.
Ari received his transplant in July 2013 and is thriving today. But it didn't happen immediately. He went through 10 sessions of chemotherapy on 10 consecutive days to knock out his old system and open pathways for the transplant cells. And it took two years before doctors were certain that the transplant was a complete success.
"There was one point where my daughter thought they would have to do a second transplant," says Janssen. "His doctor said they would wait just a little while longer, and then it started turning around. Now Ari is making his own cells."
"We just couldn't be more appreciative for what Thrivent and Be The Match have done for us. We're so happy."
Be The Match is one of the organizations that Thrivent Choice members can choose to support through directed funds.
"Thrivent's commitment helps us support patients as they go through the transplant process," says Angie Dahl, director of corporate giving for the Be The Match Foundation. "When members contribute money, it goes to adding new members to the registry, as well as to supporting patients."
Today, Ari is discovering new foods, games and toys, and enjoying a childhood that his family does not take for granted. And he has one grateful and overjoyed grandmother.
"We just couldn't be more appreciative for what Thrivent and Be The Match have done for us," says Janssen. "We're so happy."
Make a difference!
Eligible Thrivent members can help designate where some of Thrivent Financial's charitable funds go. See how Thrivent Choice helps members support the causes that matter to them.