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Boy bonds with benefactor

Kimberly Jordan kjordan@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:01 PM

Ten years ago next Monday, a local boy's life was changed forever by a person who lives on the other side of the country. 

Last weekend, he got the chance to meet her.

Nicholas Lackey was just 18 months old when he was taken to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville in need of a bone marrow transplant. Nicholas has Hurler Syndrome, which is a rare hereditary disease in which the protein that breaks down the sugar in your body is missing, said Nicholas' mother, Cathy Wair.

"Me and my daughters were all tested, and none of us was a match," said Wair. "I was the closest and I was a '5'. You have to be a '10' to be a match."

Enter Jana Rider, a resident of Bremerton, Wash., located about an hour outside of Seattle. Rider said she is a federal employee and she registered through the Department of Defense's donor program. 

"I knew there was a guy here that I worked with that needed a bone marrow transplant," Rider said. "I thought, 'Why not do it? it could be someone in my family.'"

After Rider registered, she got a phone call that she was a potential match for someone in need.

"They send a kit in the mail and you go down and give blood. It gets sent off to a lab," Rider said. "At the time when I donated, all I knew was I was donating to a child. They don't have to have as much marrow, so they only take from one side of your hip."

The donated marrow was flown to Vanderbilt from the donation center in Washington D.C., where Rider made her donation at Georgetown University where the Department of Defense program is based.

After the transplant, Nicholas was in the hospital for seven weeks.

"It was very stressful," said Wair. "I couldn't leave the hospital, and it was stressful not being with my other children."

At the time, Wair had two other children, Chelsea, now 17, and Ashlea, now 13. Nicholas also has a younger brother, Connor, who is 9.

About a year and a half after Nicholas' procedure, Wair said she reached out to Rider.

"I didn't know anything about her," Wair said. "I just knew it was a female who donated."

Rider said after speaking to Wair, she began to keep up with Nicholas through Facebook, checking for posts on Wair's page.

"I've been watching him grow up on the internet," said Rider. "It was great to get to meet him in person. They were so nice and grateful, and that made it even better for me."

Wair said Rider spent the whole weekend with the family, and Rider and Nicholas bonded.

"It was very exciting," Wair said. "I explained to [Nicholas] that this is the girl who saved your life. We went bowling. It was a great time."

Rider said ever since her experience with the donation, she has been encouraging others to do the same.

"I think it's important for people to donate. I've been advocating that at my job. I would do it again if it ever came up, definitely. You never know who you could save," she said.

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