2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Swim For Life, supporting Bloodworks Northwest (formerly called Puget Sound Blood Center). I begin "swimming for life" in 2005, and for good cause. I had always been a loyal blood donor - in fact, my name is on the wall at Bloodworks' headquarters on Seattle's First Hill for 100 donations of whole blood and platelet apheresis donations.
But 17 years ago, I was near death undergoing chemo for testicular cancer, and was a recipient of over two dozen transfusions of units of red blood cells and platelets. These transfusions kept me alive long enough to benefit from the chemo and be cured of my cancer.
Fast forward five years, and I learned from a friend about "Swim for Life," founded by swimmer Scott Leopold in honor of a friend who lost a son to leukemia. I was a regular swimmer, I was turning 50, I was five years cancer free, and I thought yes, this is something I can do, to swim 2.5 miles across Lake Washington to raise money for this great organization. By emailing friends, family, clients (I am a lawyer, then in solo practice) and colleagues who had followed me through my cancer treatments, I raised $10,000 for Bloodworks' life-giving work. Since then, I have continued to raise money, swam the swim a few more times, and was fortunate enough to be invited to join Bloodworks' board of trustees, on which I served for seven years.
In 2010, two days before becoming Board Chair, and 10 years after my first cancer, I was diagnosed with leukemia. I had more need than ever before for Bloodworks and its capacity to save lives. I received another two dozen transfusions while waiting to get a matching donor for a bone marrow transplant, the only cure for my type of leukemia. My experience showed that anybody, anytime can have the need for what Bloodworks provides, and the importance of supporting an organization that works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year collecting, sorting, processing, testing and transfusing blood.
Besides the transfusions, Bloodworks is a co-founder of the Be The Match bone marrow registry, and through this registry one donor was found who was a perfect match for me - in fact only one, out of the then 14 million people on the registry worldwide. My transplant was successful and I have been leukemia free for seven years. In those 17 years since I first had cancer, I've seen my two sons not just graduate high school, which I was highly doubting back then that I would live to see, but see them graduate college, graduate school, get married to wonderful women, and make me the world's proudest grandpa of my now two-year-old grandson, whose umbilical cord was donated by his parents at birth to Bloodworks' cord blood program, yet another life giving role that Bloodworks plays.
These days, Bloodworks is laser-focused on supporting its ground-breaking blood research institute, whose discoveries serve and save lives not just in its Puget Sound and Oregon service areas, but literally around the world. I ask you to join me in donating generously in accordance with your means to research that could and very possibly will save the lives both of your own friends and loved ones, and others you will never know, but who will be eternally grateful for the selflessness of others.
Many of you reading these words have donated to Swim for Life on my behalf year after year in both small and gratifyingly/staggeringly generous amounts. I and my whole family are so grateful to you all, and for the life that Bloodworks has been instrumental in letting me live and enjoy. Your donations will help assure that everyone needing safe, healthy blood transfusions, blood therapies and bone marrow transplants will have the same good fortune that I've been lucky enough to benefit from.