There is an old saying that “The first impression is the last impression.” When Stephen McCormick met eight year-old Sean Suppan for the first time he said, “Sean was stronger than I had imagined.” The meeting might not have even occurred if it were not for the bone marrow that McCormick donated to Suppan.
The first meeting of the two occurred during the annual Bryan Quinn-Al Edwards Awards Banquet sponsored by Because I Care, a recruitment group in support of Be The Match marrow donor registry. The banquet held on October 11 in Longview, Texas brings together its donors and volunteers in an emotion-charged evening. Sean, accompanied by his parents Ellen and David, traveled from their home in Pennsylvania.
In November 2008, McCormick, while a student at East Texas Baptist University registered with Be The Match during a donor recruitment drive held by Because I Care. According to Anita Quinn, a coordinator for Because I Care, “About four months later, McCormick received a phone call that he might possibly match a four year-old boy who had adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). This was the second child in the Suppan family to be diagnosed with ALD. Their son, David, suffered with the same illness and passed away at age 10.”
“When I was contacted, I was shocked that I was even a possible match,” said McCormick, who was still a student at ETBU at the time. “To be the ‘one’ is a special thing. I thought ‘What a great opportunity to help someone.’ I considered it a blessing to be able to be used by God to help save someone’s life.”
The transplant occurred in April 2009. McCormick’s marrow was collected at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. The life-giving marrow was then flown to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Suppan’s transplant was facilitated. At the time of the transplant, the donor and recipient are anonymous to one another. After a year’s time the two are given the opportunity to sign release forms and contact one another if they wish.
McCormick, and his wife Brittany (Milum), an ETBU grad as well, are expecting their first child. He teaches high school social studies and coaches football, basketball, and track at Dulles High School. Some may call the Sugarland, Texas native a hero for what he did. The former ETBU football player and 2011 graduate does not see it that way.
“I never looked at it as being a hero or saving someone’s life. I looked at it as an opportunity to help someone to have another season in his life. Even if it was unsuccessful, I would have the same outlook. It was a blessing to help a stranger,” said McCormick.
Suppan’ s mom told a reporter from the Longview News-Journal that McCormick’s donation allowed them to do for Sean what they couldn’t do for their older son- save his life.
“Meeting Sean and his family for the first time was amazing,” shared McCormick. “I was overwhelmed with emotion; to see a strong family like the Suppans.”
This is not the first time an ETBU student has been involved with Because I Care. In 2011, then ETBU football player James Fugate served as a bone marrow donor to an anonymous individual in the eastern U.S. On October 30-31, Because I Care will be back on the ETBU campus recruiting volunteer donors in the Ornelas Student Center from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. each day.
McCormick has this to say to someone pondering about registering with Be The Match. “Think about it, and pray about it. Sometimes there is only one possible match, and that could be you. It is a great opportunity to help someone by giving of yourself just like Jesus did on the cross. “
He also stressed, “If the thought of pain is keeping you from doing it; then think about what the pain the recipient is going through. It is not nearly as painful as the imagination allows you to believe. Donating does not hinder or weaken you. The marrow replenishes itself.”
The lasting impression that Suppan left on McCormick, “He looked sharp. Coincidently, we wore similar outfits to the banquet. So I guess he got my sense of fashion along with the DNA. He was funny, affectionate, and appeared to be like any normal eight year-old boy.”
Since 1990, Because I Care has added more than 20,000 potential donors to the Be The Match registry. Dozens of those recruits have become donors, offering the “Gift of Life” to patients in need of life saving transplants. For more information, visit the website www.BICTEXAS.org.