A life-saving journey from Alabama to California
Published 9:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2023
For many people, a blood transfusion can be the difference between life and death. In 2020, three pints of blood traveled from Valley, Alabama, to Pasadena, California, to save Micheal Snow’s life.
In 2019, Snow was diagnosed with cancer when he was 68 years old. By July 2020, he underwent a stem cell transfusion donated by Kayla Corley, a perfect-match donor. Miraculously, Snow’s incredibly rare form of blood cancer — called Myelofribrosis — was defeated by an incredibly rare 100% donor match.
Now, Snow and Corley have made plans to meet in person for the first time. In March, Snow and his wife, Susanne, will visit Corley in Valley, Alabama.
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“We felt compelled to meet because she saved my life … I’m that fortunate that Kayla gave her blood,” Snow said.
Snow began treatments for the disease in 2019. Unfortunately, treatment was temporary and there was only one other procedure available. With depleting blood platelets, Snow was already getting blood transfusions at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, but it wasn’t enough.
His doctors told him about a difficult bone marrow procedure, in which stem cells are injected into a patient to help stimulate the production of healthy blood. First, they would need a donor, and the closer a match the better chances of success.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Corley had been considering becoming a donor for a while. In late 2019, she learned about the BeTheMatch.org registry. Though she was scared, she felt led to get registered in the hope that it might help someone in need.
Only two months later, Corley and Snow received notification that they had made a 100% match — a very rare occurrence. Corley had only been registered for two months when they were matched. She felt nervous about the procedure, especially as the pandemic halted travel.
“But I felt like this was from God,” Corley said.
For the next few months, she underwent several blood tests and painful injections. Soon, she was driving down to Boca Raton, Florida, to have the extraction. Her last injection was the day of the procedure at the hospital.
“I was so glad for those to be over,” Corley said.
In July 2020, Snow finally received his transfusion of three pints of blood. He spent the first week receiving chemotherapy and radiation to prepare him. He was in the hospital for 30 days. During his time in the hospital, the multitalented musician took up a new instrument and taught himself the ukulele.
Snow and Corley are more than just a donor match but also a match in friendship. The empathy that he and Susanne saw in her built a connection that both cherish today. Snow and Corley weren’t allowed to correspond for a year after the procedure. When they did, the couple grew very close with Corley. Snow said many donors might not have bothered or been as kind.
“She was the kind of person that cares,” he said.
Snow and his wife have become like family to Corley. She said they reach out to her on her birthday and holidays.
“It’s the most amazing blessing God has ever given me … I felt like he chose me to do something special for him,” Corley said.
Now, Snow is in full remission.
“It’s because of her blood that my recovery was so successful,” Snow said.
Corley urged her friends and family to register for the donor match site.
“There are so many people out there who have got children. They’ve got families or babies that deserve to grow up,” Corley said.