Marshall County / Massachusetts — It was my first encounter that seemed like a reunion. In August, the Parry family moved from Marshall County, Indiana to a minor league baseball stadium on the outskirts of Boston.
The point of the trip was not to watch a baseball game, but instead to meet a recent college graduate and her family.
“We need a village to get over this,” said Cary Parry, the mother of three boys, Jackson, five, twins Jacob, and Jared, three.
Part of the Parry family’s “village” is a recent college graduate named Rachel Buck.
23 years old is Jacob Parry’s game.
In 2019, a senior at the university at the time received a call during bone marrow registration.
“There’s not much else to say,” said Buck. “I took a day out of my life to give someone a lifetime.”
Nearly 40 million people worldwide are registered in the Be The Match registry, which is a list of donors of bone marrow or cord blood.
Back happened to be Jacob’s perfect match when stem cell transplantation was needed.
“We are very grateful,” said Parry. “Without Rachel, our lives look very different, so we are very grateful.”
It started with a rash. Jacob was diagnosed with progressive leukemia shortly after the age of one. After a failed round of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the infant needed a stem cell transplant.
“You literally put your child’s life in the hands of someone else,” Parry said.
Buck, a cheerleader at the University of New Haven, whimsically signed up for bone marrow registration at a 2016 football game. She explained how she received a call saying she was a match when she was standing in the casino lobby in 2019. Before she graduated from college.
That September she donated.
Buck knows that Jacob Parry was on the donor list before he was born.
“It was as if I was waiting for my moment. For example, I was ready to coach me!” Buck said cheerfully.
On September 20, 2019, Jacob underwent a stem cell transplant. It took months to overcome post-transplant complications and fight, but eventually he went home.
After transplantation, donors and recipients will not be able to meet for at least a year. In October 2020, the two families began sharing their lives from a distance and met in person almost a year later.
Buck says the story isn’t about her, it’s about Jacob Parry.
“I just appeared,” said Buck. “I didn’t do any work on it. He saved his own life. I was in the right place, at the right time.”
Jacob and his brother will act as back ring bearers when she gets married in 2023.
World Bone Marrow Day is September 18th. Jacob is two years old since it was transplanted on September 20th.