Fort Myers woman receives stem cells from donor in Germany

A Fort Myers woman’s cancer is in remission thanks to a stem cell transplant all the way from Europe.

Andrea McCaraher was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, childhood leukemia, three years ago.

“I didn’t believe that I had leukemia,” McCaraher said. “My first thought was not that I’m going to die, but what do I have to do to fix this.”

Her doctors only gave her a 40 percent chance to live.

She said you don’t know me and started to fight the cancer with the help of her husband and her family.

“I was extremely worried,” her husband said. “You’re talking 40 percent survival rate. That’s tough. We’d been married 40 some years.

The doctors at Moffitt Medical Center in Tampa admitted her almost immediately for grueling weeks of chemotherapy. As she fought her way into remission, doctors recommended she get a stem cell transplant.

“There’s no turning back,” McCaraher said. “They bring you as close to death as possible without killing you and then they build you back up with the stem cells.”

McCaraher was faced with yet another challenge: finding a donor. No one in her family was a match. But little did they know they’d be getting a brand new family member. On the other side of the world.

Doctors found a perfect match for Andrea in Germany.

Donors take Filgratism to build up stem cells in the blood. Doctors then collect the cells from the blood and sent them from Europe to Florida overnight. Just hours later, Andrea was on her way to a brand new life.

“She is an angel in my eyes. An angel.”

There is a two-year waiting period where patients and donors must remain anonymous.

“Her blood type was A positive and mine changed from A negative to A positive,” McCaraher said.

The day that her waiting period was over, her donor reached out on Facebook.

“It’s a great feeling knowing you saved a life with your stem cell donation,” said McCaraher’s donor Daniela. “Especially because it is not much of an effort.”

Now there is a plan for the two to meet.

“I am very excited to meet Andrea in September and I can’t wait to meet my genetic twin,” said Daniela.

“How do you pay somebody back who saved your life?” said McCaraher. “There’s no amount of money in the world you can give.”

 

Writer:Emily Luft
SHARE