Celebrating life! Transplant donors and patients reunited

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- It was a celebration of life at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea on Friday, as transplant donors and patients were reunited. And it's a meeting that wouldn't have happened without the kindness of strangers.

For a year and a half,  Brian Corkill and Cori Tucker have shared a life. But Friday, for the first time, they sat down to share a meal. “It was an amazing feeling to finally get to meet him in person,” says Tucker.

What brought them together was a reunion for transplant patients at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center.

But what truly bonded them together was bone marrow. “I signed up, and two months later I got a call,” says Tucker, who lives in Seattle.  She volunteered as donor through the "Be the Match" program. "I didn't think I was going to get a call, but I did,” she recalls.

Meanwhile, back in Arizona, Corkill was battling something called Mylo Displastic Syndrome, which had devastated his bone marrow. A transplant was his only hope.

“With the transplant, you can cure 40 to 50 percent of patients. Without it, it is zero,” says Dr. Jeff Schriber, medical director of the Cancer Transplant Institute at Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare. He performed the transplant for Corkill in February of 2013.

First they wiped out any remaining marrow, then introduced new cells. A procedure that Aubrie Vargas with "Be the Match" says is very different than what most people expect. “But now the most common way to donate, which Cori donated in, is a non-surgical method, so it is all done through the blood system.”

And that is how blood and bone brought Cori and Brian together to share lunch Friday, and how they hope it can inspire others to share life, going forward.

"I just kept saying why not, why not help someone in need and help give them their life back,” says Tucker.

Corkill adds: "You know sometimes if you can help somebody, they will carry that forward.”