Miracle match: Californian and Valley donor meet

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

After two years, Michael Snow flew across the country to meet his stem cell donor, Valley resident Kayla Corley, in person for the first time. 

In 2019, Snow, of Pasadena, California, was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer called Myelofribrosis. He was told he only had two options. He could keep receiving blood transfusions from USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, or he could undergo a bone marrow transplant through a donor. 

“I had a shelf-life of two years,” Snow said. “This was the only procedure available to me.”

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Corley, a first-time donor, had only been registered on BeTheMatch.com for two weeks when she matched with Snow. But they didn’t just match — they made a very rare 100% donor match. 

On March 25, Snow and his wife, Sue Snow, met Corley and her husband, Chris, at LaFayette’s Gimme Some Sugar to finally meet face-to-face. The two couples planned a weekend of activities from a family dinner to visiting the Desoto Caverns. 

After they matched, Corley had to go through two months of injections to get her blood to metabolize for the extraction. 

She drove 10 hours down to a facility in Boca Raton, Florida, to go through her last two rounds of injections and have the extraction. Though they were painful, it was all worth it. 

In July 2020, Snow received the transfusion from Corley. Since then, he has been deemed cancer-free.

A year after the transplant was a success, Corley and Snow began corresponding. They began by exchanging letters. Pretty soon, they were meeting for Zoom calls but they always knew that they wanted to meet in person.

“Mike immediately said I want to go see her sooner than later,” Sue Snow said. 

Corley said she was grateful that the couple wanted to connect with her. Over the past two years, Corley and Snow have become as close as family.

“They kind of took me on as their grandchild,” Corley said.

Snow joked that because his body metabolized Corley’s blood they really are. Snow and Corley each did a 23andMe test to see their ancestry before the transfusion would change Snow’s blood DNA, expecting they would have ancestors in common. 

“There are little changes in the elements of my blood that are now much closer to Kayla than mine,” he said.

Unfortunately, they didn’t match as family members. 

“We made our own little bridge, I think,” Snow said. “We’re actually blood relatives.”

Snow and his wife said that they will always be grateful to Corley for giving him more time.

“If this girl — either because of God or her own conscience — had not given her blood, I would be looking at near death this year because it’s been two years,” Snow said. “Every time I play the guitar with my son and my grandkids, I think of Kayla. Every time I jam with some garage band, and we don’t know what we’re doing, it’s because of your blood.”

Ever since her experience, Corley recommends people to sign up for BeTheMatch, the company that matched her with Snow. 

“There are children and parents and grandparents, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers — people out there who need this so that they can watch their children grow up or so that their children can grow up,” Corley said.

“I’m eternally grateful for your contribution,” Snow said to Corley. “I hope I’m not overstating, I feel like we’re going to know each other for the rest of my life.”