A mother of three from Treynor went to Florida last week and met the man who saved her life.
Lisa Dunbar, 50, battled lymphoma and needed blood stem cells to live. The donation came from Sean Conklin, 27, from Delray Beach, Florida in 2014.
The encounter was a surprise arranged by Gift of Life Marrow Registry for the annual Campus Ambassador Symposium in Boca Raton, Florida.
“It turned out that Lisa’s donor started working at Gift of Life ... we thought it would be a nice surprise to facilitate the meeting of the two of them,” said Marti Freund, director of community engagement for Gift of Life.
Conklin and Dunbar connected in May through the University of Nebraska Medical Center where the transplant took place.
Soon after, Dunbar was contacted by her donor’s manager about the surprise meeting.
“We had the chance to show students what their work would lead to,” Freund said.
It’s typical for a donor and recipient to meet at this event, she said. This year, 115 college students attended the symposium to learn more about Gift of Life and hear Dunbar’s speech.
Dunbar did not expect that many people in attendance, but that wasn’t the only thing on her mind.
The time leading up to the meeting her donor was extremely emotional, but she said actually meeting her donor was a surreal experience — Conklin was not aware he would be meeting her.
“It was a lot of fun; there was a lot of excitement — adrenaline — as it got closer and closer to the time I would go meet him,” Dunbar said.
At the event, she spoke about her attendance at her daughter’s wedding, her son’s high school graduation, her grandson’s first birthday, and the recent birth of her second grandson, all thanks to the donation.
Dunbar’s cancer was aggressive enough to end her life within one or two years, if it weren’t for the blood stem cell transplant.
Dunbar has given thanks every Thanksgiving for her donor, despite never knowing his name.
At the end of her prepared speech, Dunbar thanked her donor again and thanked everyone for attending and recruiting potential donors.
She also thanked Dr. Julie Vose from The University of Nebraska Medical Center as well as her team for their part in her treatment and recovery.
“What I took away from (the event) was the importance that people get registered and how easy it is, and to remind people to get registered to save a life if it’s needed,” Dunbar said.
Conklin joined the Gift of Life Marrow Registry in 2013 while attending the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, New York.
He is currently a community engagement coordinator for Gift of Life, and was not expecting to meet his recipient.
“That is the meanest nice thing anyone’s ever done for me,” Conklin said.
He said he heard talk around the office about a second donor meeting, but never thought it would be for him.
“I don’t want to make it seem like I did something unique,” he said. “I want everyone to feel like they can do this.”