“You made one decision and it saved my life. Love, Deegan.”
That’s the sign Amy Scott commissioned as a keepsake to present to her son’s bone marrow donor, who her family was on their way to meet for the first time.
The meeting would be at the 2017 Be The Match annual council meeting in Minneapolis, attended by more than 1,200 people associated with bone marrow donations. As is tradition, planners arrange for one donor to meet their recipient live onstage as the culminating moment of the weekend-long conference. This year, 4-year-old Akron Children’s Hospital patient Deegan Scott, of Salem, was chosen.
“This moment is what everybody who attends the conference works so hard to make happen,” Amy said. “It’s a chance to see the results of all their hard work right in front of their eyes.”
Deegan was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, a very aggressive cancer, in March 2016. Soon after, doctors determined he needed a bone marrow transplant.
“We were told we were in for a long ride, and being in the hospital became his every day,” Amy said.
Fortunately, Deegan was matched quickly to a donor, and the process for preparing him for the transplant began.
After overcoming some complications and lengthy hospital stays, Deegan can now say he’s been in remission for one year as of Aug. 10, 2017, the one-year anniversary of his transplant.
Back at the conference, Deegan and his parents waited in a green room backstage not knowing anything about their donor other than he was a young adult who was married, had a young daughter and was expecting another child in December.
They later came to learn the donor had his own unique story. A former college basketball player at Butler University, Chase Stigall felt moved to act after losing a teammate to cancer. He not only joined the bone marrow donor database himself after a celebration of his teammate’s life, but along with his teammate’s wife Samantha, they started a charity at the school, Project 44, to encourage more young people to register.
Just a few months after he submitted his sample, Stigall was matched to Deegan.
When Deegan and his parents walked onstage at the conference to meet their donor and his wife, the love and compassion naturally flowed like the tears filling the ballroom.
“It was a very powerful moment,” Amy said. “You can see something positive come out of a horrible situation. If it wasn’t for this man and his blood, Deegan wouldn’t be here today.”
The Scotts and Stigalls hit it off that weekend in Minneapolis, and plan to get together again and keep up on each others’ lives. Coincidentally, the Stigalls live just west of Cleveland, within a 90-minute drive for the Scotts.
Their next reunion is already planned for Dec. 30 at Butler’s home basketball game against Villanova, where Chase and Deegan will be honored during a halftime ceremony. Also, ESPN, which had a video crew shadowing the Scotts while they were at the conference, will air a segment that day chronicling their respective journeys.
Meanwhile, Deegan is doing great as he continues to move past his cancer diagnosis. The family credits everyone at Akron Children’s, particularly Drs. John Fargo, Erin Wright and Prasad Bodas, as well as nurse practitioner Courtney Culbertson.
He’s down to one follow-up doctor visit per month, and on Nov. 20, 2 days before his 4th birthday, he will have been taken off all his medicines.
“We let him throw the bottle in the trash to commemorate it,” Amy said.