A Patient's Story: Mark

Jan 1 8:00am | Stacie Hammer | @shammer26

For 15 years, Mark Altwegg hadn’t missed a day of work. Then, one morning, he couldn’t get off the couch and had to call in sick. After two consecutive COVID-19 tests — both reading UNDETECTED — his wife, Cathy, convinced him to see a nurse practitioner. Further testing revealed his white blood cell count was incredibly high and, in June 2020, Mark was diagnosed with leukemia. A bone marrow transplant (BMT) was paramount for his survival.

Mark’s two brothers stepped up as possible stem cell donors, but they were not a match. Mark jokingly told them, “You are great brothers, but not quite good enough.” Fortunately, a matching donor was found. On Oct. 15, 2020, Mark underwent a successful bone marrow transplant. During initial surgery, the team removed two liters of white cells. “If they wouldn’t have done that, he would’ve been in high risk of a heart attack or a stroke,” says Cathy.

Mark refers to Oct. 15 as his “new birthday.” Interestingly, when someone receives a BMT, they take on the blood type of the marrow donor. Mark, who was an A+, is now type O.

During his 26-day stay in the hospital, Mark received multiple units of donated blood and platelets. He and Cathy have always been donors themselves. “To all blood donors, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart,” says Mark. “Your blood literally saved my life. To non-donors, I ask that you, too, consider donating. It makes you feel good that you’re giving the gift of life to a fellow human being, and that is the greatest gift of all.”

How to Donate
For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email donateblood@mayo.edu. Or visit our webpage http://www.mayoclinic.org/donateblood.

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