Waupaca woman thankful for transplant
During this season of thanksgiving, gift giving and looking forward, Rita Kraus knows all three of those things quite well.
After a routine check-up 3 1/2 years ago, the 68-year old Waupaca woman learned she had acute myelogenous leukemia.
She was devastated when Dr. Anthony Phillips, an oncologist, shared the reality with her.
Without a bone marrow/stem cell transplant, there would not be much of a future for Kraus.
She began intense chemotherapy in Appleton and worked with Froedtert Cancer Center in Milwaukee as the donor search continued.
Kraus’ older sister was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer, and her younger sister proved to not be the best match.
Family, friends and strangers offered well wishes and prayers.
Kraus continued to get chemo and prepare for a transplant, while the hospital continued to search for the right donor for her.
As she anxiously waited for news of a donor, a 26-year old woman in Alamogordo, New Mexico, anxiously waited for news, too.
She wondered whether she was a match for someone or not, after being told it was a possibility.
Stephanie Mille-Long was this prospective donor.
She and her brother were born in Florida and had a trying childhood.
Mille-Long had meningitis when she was 2 years old, leaving her partially deaf.
Several years after her parents divorced, she and her mother moved to New Mexico.
That is where this positive-thinking young woman overlooked her problems and thought about someone else.
When the television show ” Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” aired an episode about a child who needed a transplant, information from Be The Match was given at the end of the show.
The message to those in good health could was that they could give life by donating their stem cells or bone marrow.
Mille-Long decided to share her gift.
Testing was done, and her stem cell information was placed on a registry to be used anywhere in the world.
Once it was determined she was a match for Kraus, Mille-Long received shots in New Mexico for five days to increase the stem cells in her body. “Be The Match” flew her and a friend (all expenses paid) to Fort Worth, Texas for two days.
Mille-Long explained that there was no more to it than to giving a blood donation.
A few weeks after Mille-Long gave her stem cells to Kraus, she learned she was pregnant with life herself. Wyatt is now 3.
After Kraus received her stem cell transplant on Feb. 8, 2012, she and a companion needed to remain in Milwaukee for three months.
Kathy’s (Hospitality) House was where they stayed.
Kraus’ three daughters and other family members helped during that time and continue to help when she needs to return to Milwaukee for checkups.
Kraus appreciates it all and hoped to one day thank Mille in person.
In September, she got to do so.
Mille-Long moved to Pennsylvania, where she met her husband.
They were married this past September and moved to Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania, which is just 15 minutes from one of Kraus’ daughters.
The time and place to meet her life-saving donor was calling Kraus.
By Sept. 23, Kraus and her sister were on a plane to meet Mille-Long and to also spend time with family.
For the two women, words cannot describe the moment of meeting face to face.
It was a time of thanksgiving for them and a time to learn more about the person each shares her innermost self with today.
Each of them received a bracelet with the words “faith, hope and love” on it.
Through their stories, they recognized “the greatest of these is love.”
Those interested in saving the life of another by donating stem cells may contact BeTheMatch.org or call 800-627-7692.