Finding purpose. An ideological college student signs up to be a blood and stem cell donor. Years later his name pops up as a match to save a young boy's life. Things have changed, time has passed, but the desire to help lives on. Then the gift is recognized. We were there when Jacob met his match.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, Jacob Kowalik's story was one of a healty, active boy enjoying his favorite summer activities. But his blood told another tale.
Jennifer Kowalik: "We were sent down to Children's and they said, 'Your son is going to get AML leukemia if you don't do a bone marrow transplant sooner than later. We need to go to "Be the Match" and find a donor.'"
They found this man -- Marshal Davis, a lawyer and college fencing coach.
Marshal Davis, Stem Cell Donor: "From the beginning I knew no matter what, I was going to go through with it. No hesitation."
it was a leap of faith for the 31-year-old who had all but forgotten about the day he and a few college buddies took part in a bone marrow drive at the University of Florida.
Marshal Davis: "A bunch of friends and I went over there and they swabbed our cheeks and put them in test tubes
got a call nine or 10 years later that I was a match."
A perfect match for a complete stranger. Until now. One year after he donated his stem cells to Jacob, Marshall reached out to the Kowalik family.
Jennifer Kowalik, Jacob's Mother: before I could even email Marshall he had emailed us and said I'm Marshall and I was the donor for your son. And it was just amazing. We've been emailing ever since.
Marshal Davis: "When I realized that they lived near Chicago and I was coming for fencing championships, it kind of was the perfect time to meet."
And a perfect time to meet Jacob's medical team.
"This is Marshal!"
Nurse: "We could tell you we were very happy when we found you!
A little sleepy but still eager to lead his new friends on a tour of Children's Memorial, Jacob is cancer-free. But he's fighting another battle graft vs. host disease. His body recoiled with the onslaught of foreign stem cells, creating what looks like an allergic reaction on his skin.
Jennifer Kowalik: "There's no cure for the graft vs. host, when it wants to go away it will. Meanwhile we treat him twice a week downtown."
A good sport through it all
Jacob now has another teammate in his corner.
Jennifer Kowalik: "Very emotional. Just to think that this generous man saved my kids life not even knowing him yesterday."
Marshal Davis: "I guess he's like the little brother I never had. There was an immediate connection."
Jacob, his family and Marshal are all speaking out because they want more people to know about 'Be the Match,' the national bone marrow registry.
You can learn more at www.marrow.org