Twenty-four years ago, Lori Groen from Milwaukee discovered she was a bone marrow match for a five year old boy in Maryland, battling leukemia. Groen was discovered through a National Bone Marrow Donor Registry after a blood and tissue test. Jason Lee is now 30 years old and is healthy, and cancer free, and now they're using their success story to inspire others to donate.
Groen and Lee have met several times since the transplant and continue to stay in touch.
"I don't have any children of my own, so watching Jason grow up was like watching my own child grow up," Groen said. Lee agrees that Groen is "part of the family."
Roughly 9.8 million donors like Groen are on the donor registry, and 10,000 patients each year depend on finding a match, but among minorities, the chances are slim. Minorities make up less than 24 percent of the 9.8 million donors. Groen and Lee are now using their story to encourage others to help give the gift of life.
"Looking back on it as an adult, it's pretty interesting that everything worked and I'm sitting here before you. It really tells you, no matter who you are, what race you are, you can save someone's life. It only takes on person," Lee said.
The Blood Center of Wisconsin will hold two opportunities Saturday to enroll in the Bone Marrow Donor Registry, one from 9 to 2 at the Northcott Neighborhood House in Milwaukee, and 10 to 5 at the Brookfield Suites Hotel.