WOODBURY, NY – In a heartwarming meeting, Oscar Romero, 32, of Brentwood, NY, finally had the chance to personally thank Army Lt. Ryan Waldorf, 23, of Great Neck, NY for saving his life. It was thanks to Lt. Waldorf’s generous donation of bone marrow that Mr. Romero, a construction worker who hails from El Salvador, was able to survive his ongoing battle with Aplastic Anemia, a blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow doesn’t produce enough new blood cells.
The two have been communicating via email since the successful bone marrow transplant at North Shore University Hospital in the fall of 2010, but had never set eyes on each other until the 11th Annual Celebration of Life Dinner of North Shore University Hospital’s Don Monti Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplantation Program, held recently at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. .
When Mr. Romero first learned of his condition, he admits he was frightened. English is not his native tongue, and all of this information was quite overwhelming. He did understand one alarming fact: without a bone marrow donation, his prognosis was poor. As his physician, Ruthee-Lu Bayer, MD, said, “Oscar is such a kind man. He has so much to live for. It’s always such a thrill for us to see how a bone marrow transplant can give a person, especially one as young as Oscar, a second chance at life.”
As his donor, Lt. Waldorf said that he was thrilled to finally be able to meet the man whose life he saved. “I first learned about bone marrow donation while at a blood drive at my base,” he said. “It was such an easy process -- just a cheek swab -- and now I get to meet Oscar. We are connected for life now.”
The Celebration of Life dinner served to highlight the legacy of the Monti family. In June 1972, 16-year-old Don Monti died at North Shore University Hospital 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. They established the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation at the hospital, and raised and contributed tens of millions of dollars over the years toward cancer research, education, fellowship and patient care. The program is under the stewardship of Caroline Monti Saladino, whose parents began this vital work so many years ago.
Lt. Waldorf summed up the spirit of the reunion: “We have the same bone marrow now, which means we are connected in a very special way. I hope everyone hears this story and understands what it means to be able to save a life.”