This I Believe

Matthew - Western Springs, Illinois
Entered on September 26, 2007

I believe that during times of hardship, we are given an opportunity to rise above it and achieve something great. Some of the greatest chances in our lifetime to do something important are given to us during a time of grief and struggle.

My belief first began about six years ago, with my two-year old cousin Brady. During a visit to the doctor, he was diagnosed with a rare condition; his body couldn’t create enough white blood cells to fight off disease causing agents that entered his body. His immune system was very weak, and it was clear that this was a very serious condition. My aunt and uncle sought out the greatest health care specialists, they could find, flying from their home in Delaware to a specialty doctor in Minnesota. Brady’s condition wasn’t good; the only effective treatment would be stem cell therapy. The doctor explained that the stem cells are blank cells, able to take on the properties of nearby cells to duplicate them. Stem cells would be able to strengthen my cousin’s immune system.

Unfortunately, the only major sources of stem cells are fetal embryos and umbilical chord blood. Umbilical chord blood would be the only option, but they could only be gathered from the part of the umbilical chord cut at birth and couldn’t be stored in hospitals. Also the technology wasn’t developed enough to guarantee that Brady would survive. Eventually without stem cells, my cousin Brady died on March 28, 2002.

My aunt and uncle were grief stricken and our entire family tried to console them. But instead of letting this event ruin her life, my aunt saw this as an opportunity to do something great. She researched Brady’s condition and stem cells. She decided that she had to try and help families from losing their loved ones like she lost hers. So, my aunt founded the Brady Kohn foundation, an organization that raised money for stem cell research and, with the help of government agencies, collects and stores the hard to preserve the stem cells in umbilical chord blood for research and medical treatment. My entire extended family helped her with setting up fundraisers and raising awareness of the organization. My aunt received an lifetime achievement award for all she did in the medical community.

I was inspired by how my aunt rose above her hardship and achieved something great. She showed that times of grief and loss are opportunities to accomplish great things.