WOODBURY, NY – In a heartwarming meeting, Vincent Valenti, 35, of White Plains, NY, finally had the chance to personally thank Stefan Hindl 32, from Germany for his life-saving bone marrow donation.
Mr. Valenti, the father of 16-month-old twin boys, was able to survive his ongoing battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), after receiving the transplant in September 2009 at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH). The two men have been communicating via email ever since, but never set eyes on each other until they were united at the 10th Annual Celebration of Life Dinner of NSUH’s Don Monti Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplantation Program, held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, NY.
Mr. Valenti received his first cancer diagnosis in 1999 and then suffered a relapse in 2008. He was told that his only hope for a normal life would be a bone marrow transplant. “Vincent is a real fighter. He has a beautiful family and a lot to live for,” said his physician, Ruthee-Lu Bayer, MD. “It’s always such a thrill for us to see how a bone marrow transplant can allow whole families to survive.”
As his donor, Mr. Hindl said through an interpreter that he was thrilled to fly in from Germany to meet the man whose life he saved. Even though the two have been Facebook friends since last year, Mr. Valenti, who was joined by his wife Christina and twin sons Dominic and Nicholas, said, “I’m so happy to have the chance to thank Stefan in person. Facebook is a great way to communicate, but it was important for me to have the chance to thank him in person.”
The reunion of Mr. Valenti and Mr. Hindl has been replicated for the past decade, thanks to the generosity of the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation. The event is a highlight for bone marrow donors and recipients, family members, healthcare professionals and supporters.
In June 1972, 16-year-old Don Monti died at NSUH of myeloblastic leukemia. Within days of his death, his parents, Tita and Joseph Monti, committed themselves to founding an organization in his memory, dedicated to the mission of finding a cure for cancer. Since establishing the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation, the Monti family has raised and contributed tens of millions of dollars toward cancer research, education, fellowship and patient care. Today, the program is under the stewardship of Caroline Monti Saladino, whose parents began this vital work 40 years ago.
Mr. Valenti summed up the spirit of the reunion: “Stefan and I have the same bone marrow now, which means we are connected in a very special way. Our plan is to stay in contact always…we’re much more than Facebook friends.”