WACO—When retired maintenance worker Bill Allison of Puxico, Mo., was diagnosed with stage-four leukemia two years ago, doctors said his chances of finding a bone marrow donor were slim at best, considering his age.
But then God stepped in, Allison said, in the form of a 19-year-old Baylor University student who joined a national bone-marrow donor registry at a road race around the same time.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found I had this young man in Texas,” said Allison, who is now 65 and attends a Baptist church in Poplar Bluff, Mo. “I was overjoyed that I found a donor, because I didn’t think I was going to get one.”
He and Dillon Gasper, now 20, met for the first time earlier this month in Waco, one year after the college student’s gift of life was implanted into Allison body and began strengthening his ravaged immune system.
Gasper said the encounter was moving for him because it was only then that he learned how desperate Allison’s situation was until he signed the registry at the Waco Miracle Match Marathon back in 2012.
‘I was his only match’
“He told me I was his only match … and that tells me God was definitely in it,” said Gasper, who attended University Baptist Church in Waco when he signed the registry.
Be the Match, a nonprofit that pairs donors with recipients suffering from various blood disorders, including leukemia, organized the five-kilometer race Gasper ran.
“I just happened to be at this race and sign up,” Gasper said. He didn’t expect much would come of it. “I didn’t think I was ever going to have to donate, but I hoped for it.”
That hope came from values instilled growing up in a strongly Christian family who worshipped at a Christian and Missionary Alliance church in his native Washington State. He currently attends a nondenominational church.
Gasper chose Baylor because of its strong Christian tradition, he said. The university promotes a faith that believes heavily in helping others, he said—including someone three times his age he never met who lives 600 miles away.
Another chance at life
“I have someone who died for my sins so that I might live (as my) motivation and my desire to help someone else and give them another chance at life,” he said. “How many times does that happen in your life?”
And the process wasn’t as complicated as he had always believed. As a donor, he only had to undergo what looks and feels like a blood donation procedure.
“One of the biggest myths is that it is painful, and it is in fact a very pain-free process,” he said. “It took about three hours. I just laid there and read a book.”
The experience has been so powerful for Gasper, he launched a Baylor chapter of Be the Match, and in coming weeks will address other student organizations about the marrow donation process.
For Allison, that’s even more of a sign of God’s involvement.
“I couldn’t believe people were becoming donors at that age,” Allison said. “When I got down to Waco and found out a bunch of college students had signed up, I was overwhelmed.”