Survivor Day

July 23rd, 2009 by Rob Hart

“I have always treated my good health as a gift, not a given.” -Kerry Lutz

Kerry Lutz was still a stranger to Bob Winkelmann when her stem cells gave him back his life. He now has her blood type, and a wonderful “stem niece,” as he lovingly calls her.

I’m not a details person. It drives my wife nuts that I don’t catch the names of the disease’s and afflictions that we report on. (Ok, for the record Bob had acute myeloid leukemia) This was a person caring enough to help someone else. I love these assignments. This was about making a connection. This was about giving a grandpa back to 14 kids. It’s amazing to think you can radically affect an entire family by giving some your blood.

Bob’s wife, Karen, met me at the door and within seconds you become part of their world. We listened to Karen’s 14-year-old grandson cover a White Stripes song as she danced in the kitchen. We sat by their pond and Bob told our reporter a ton of details, most of which I didn’t really understand. You can read the story here.

Then Bob broke out a DVD me made. He wanted to thanks his anonymous donor in case he didn’t make it. Kerry started crying, Bob was choking up, Lynne our reporter was crying a bit. Then came the laughter. Lots of laughter. I was shooting photos not watching the DVD at this point and even I could feel this heavy emotion.

Today I learned you don’t have to be a hero to save someone’s life.

Then I shot over to Northlake to spend some time with Jillian Jeske, who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4. She’s been in remission for 2 years and is captain of her team at the Relay for Life held at East Leyden High School. Her story is here.

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