It was a little over a year and a half ago when filmmaker Austin Patterson committed to join a registry of people who wanted to be marrow donors. He signed up, got his mouth swabbed, and was on the registry all in a matter of about five minutes. Simply taking five minutes to do this would save one man’s life.
It was an ordinary day of filming for the 2012 SNU graduate as he was helping out OKC GOOD, which is a local non-profit video company. He was there to cover Marshall Matlock’s story and how he started a portable, pop-up marrow drive called Swab Squad.
“I was standing there filming while he was sharing his story, and I was moved by it,” Patterson said as he sat across from me in his old red Southern Nazarene University shirt. “So, I thought to myself, why not? I’m already here.”
Once Austin was on the registry, he was told he could be on it for years and in most cases never get a call. Well, that was all about change.
“Three months later, I get a phone call,” Patterson continued. “And they said, ‘Hey, you are a possible match for someone who has leukemia, do you mind coming in and giving blood?’ I said ‘Of course, whatever I need to do I want to help.’”
Austin then went through the four-hour process of giving blood. The 26-year-old is very compassionate and felt called to do this.
“I was going to pray for this person even if I wasn’t the match,” said Patterson.
After they tested Austin’s blood, he got the results back.
“I found out that I was a 100% match for this person, and all I knew was this person was older than 65 years old and lived in the United States.” Patterson continued, “They try to match 10 different things in your blood, and apparently me and this person were a perfect 10 out of 10 match.” He said with a big smile, “It was extremely rare for that to happen, and to think that I have a genetic twin out there over 65 years old walking around was crazy to me.”
The people then asked Austin if he would come in and donate stem cells, and he agreed. They also told him he needed to come back to see them so they could tell him the side effects, and the SNU grad replied, “It doesn’t matter, I want to do this; I want to show love in this way.” So, for five days Austin’s body overproduced stem cells because of a small shot of medicine he had to take. Due to this he experienced a lot of pain and uneasiness, but because he knew the cancer patient needed his stem cells, Austin put the uneasiness to the side with no problem.
During this whole time, Austin’s mom who resides in Dallas, Texas took off work to come and support him, but she was upset at first and worried about him going through the side effects. Something crazy would happen two days after she was upset with him over the phone.
“There was a big commotion outside of her work, so she went outside to see what was happening,” Patterson said. “There was a 5-year-old kid who has leukemia, and no one in his family was a stem cell match. So, now my mom is looking at this kid who has no match, and her son is a match for someone else.” Patterson continued, “It was just this complete God moment of her realizing, ‘I get it.’”
Austin then went on to explain how his mom called the 5-year-old’s family and told them about what Austin was doing. The five-year-old called Austin a superhero.
During this whole process, Austin was not able to know who his stem cells were being donated to. He could be provided information on how the patient was doing, but Austin had to remain anonymous mainly to protect himself.
Once the time had passed, Austin was finally able to find out who his genetic twin is. It is a 72-year-old man named Graham Bowen out of Memphis, Texas.
In Dec. of 2015, they made contact for the first time and wanted to meet. So, on April 2, 2016 that finally took place.
“I was so happy that day. My family was in town, and there were so many people that rallied behind us.” Austin continued, “Well, he walked through the door, and I just instantly started crying. I hugged him, and he told me how much he loved me and how he considered me another son or another grandson. Then, his wife walked in; she gave me a kiss on the cheek.”
Austin told me it is definitely not done, and that he hopes to travel down to Texas soon and spend more time with the Bowen family. Patterson also said the thing he will take away from the whole process is how God was in control of the whole situation.
For more information on how you can get involved and be a marrow donor, visit online at swabsquad.org.