Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Miracle at Golf Mart

Originally written on Monday night, July 15....I have been riding a bit of an emotional high since Tim Lincecum's no-hitter. Perhaps I need to get more of a life, but I love it when I catch a good Giants game on TV, and I love it even more when it's an epic one.  But nothing can beat what I saw today, nothing.  Why? I saw a living miracle.

I arrived at Golf Mart to begin the much needed task of purchasing a legitimate (read: expensive) driver.  I took a few swings in their indoor digitized driving range when I heard a familiar voice. "Ms Stricherz?" I turned around and could not believe who I saw. Standing before me was my former student, Ben, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in August 2012.  

Without treatment, ACL is quickly fatal.  Treatment is contingent on finding a bone marrow donor.  Unfortunately, Ben's siblings were not a match.  Furthermore, as sited on Be The MatchRacial and ethnic heritage are very important factors. Patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity. Today, there simply aren't enough registry members of diverse racial and ethnic heritage. Latinos comprise but a small percentage of the bone marrow donor base. The bone marrow drive that was held at SI in Ben's name sought to increase awareness, educate people about the disease and ultimately find a match for him and others with Leukemia.  

Perhaps that was the first miracle—15 people registered as donors.  The generosity of others didn't stop there.  A man in southern Europe was found to be a match and agreed to donate his bone marrow (this is not a given). Ben received treatment on December 13, 2012; his body accepted and engrafted the cells.   He is a survivor. He is healthy. In short, he is a miracle.   
Ben played football all four years at SI and I imagine a host of other sports as a boy. Because of his health and weakened immune system, for now, he is limited to sports that are less physically taxing. Golf is a legitimate option and as far as I'm concerned, a good one (hint: next blog posting). 

As we were talking, I realized I stood in solidarity with him.  To look at us, you would never guess it, but we had come to Golf Mart for similar reasons.  Health had changed our relationship to sports.  High intensity, aerobic, contact sports are off the table—for Ben's immune system and for my heart health.  

Fortunately however, the wide world of sports offers many varietals, like yoga, walking, archery and golf.  Although I miss really pushing myself and breaking a sweat for a runner's high and the camaraderie that comes with playing hoops, the joy (and frustration) of golf has surpassed my expectations. Unlike many sports, I can play with people of any age.  For example, last Friday, I played with two women in their 60s who crushed the ball. Today, I played with a beloved student, who will be one of two captains on the girls varsity golf team.  It has also brought me to some beautiful places in and around the Bay Area. 

It's funny to think that Golf Mart is one of them...but when you see a living, breathing miracle, you can't help but give thanks for something like our health, the generosity of others and all that is to come....for Ben, his family and new friends I will make through golf.  
Photo Credits
From Caring Bridge: Ben Aguilar

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