A special gift for life
The author with her husband, Justin Bradley.

Photo provided by Bradley family

A special gift for life

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
2/2/2017


ISLIP TOWN—Last Sunday, a bone marrow drive was held at the Blue Point Fire Department in support of the Gift of Life Marrow Registry and the launch of a new book authored by a local survivor. 

The Gift of Life Marrow Registry helps to cure blood cancer through bone marrow and stem cell donations. For the event, the organization provided 100 swab kits to be filled in hopes of finding at least one match for a person in need of a bone marrow/stem cell transplant. With more than 14,000 people requiring a transplant this year, anyone can help someone in need by simply registering and swabbing to be a donor. Overall, over $2,000 was raised for the cause on Sunday, with 36 people registering and swabbing. A Chinese auction and 50/50 raffle was also held in order to raise more funds.

The event was created by Patchogue resident Kathryn Bradley, a survivor of a rare complete bone marrow disease called severe aplastic anemia. Bradley, who grew up in Bayport and graduated from Bayport-Blue Point High School in 2003, was diagnosed in December 1998. In April 1999, she received a successful bone-marrow transplant at the age of 14 from her identical twin sister, Meagan, and was back in school the following November.

“I was really lucky,” said Bradley, who now has three children despite being told she would have a very difficult time ever conceiving. “Life is great, and I’m happy to be here alive and giving back to the community of families dealing with life-threatening illnesses.”

Bradley is now committed to raising awareness about bone marrow failure disease while supporting victims and their families. In addition to the bone marrow drive, a fundraiser was held for the launch of Bradley’s inspirational and informative nonprofit book, titled “A Shoulder to Lean On.” The book is based on her personal experiences, and is written for children and their families encountering the disease.

“I wrote the book as my way of giving back,” said Bradley. “When I was sick, I didn’t really have anything to guide me about what I was going through or about to go through…At the time, my parents didn’t really know how to help me because they had their own fears. I wanted to write a book that not only helps the child who’s sick, but also the family and friends who are going through it with them.”

The story is told through the eyes of a survivor of severe aplastic anemia. She describes the experience of being in the bone marrow ward and undergoing a transplant to a young girl, who has just been diagnosed and requires a transplant of her own. Included in the book is information on the aspects of what bone marrow failure is, stages of treatment, and how to remain strong during such a trying time.

“It can be helpful for anyone who’s going through it,” said Bradley, who was inspired to write the book by one of her occupational therapy patients, who was an author himself. “I tried to address the whole process while also providing hope and conquering that fear. I make the point that it’s okay to be scared and that there’s nothing wrong with that feeling.”

The story discusses what to expect, from when a patient is first diagnosed, to the transplant and recovery, and the eventual return home.

“The theme of my story is simply to hold on to hope and to stay positive through a process that is certainly scary and intimidating to anyone and everyone involved,” she said.

Bradley’s goal is to have her book distributed across the country and the rest of the world to reach as many people as possible. Money raised will help distribute the book at no cost to children’s hospitals and those battling life-threatening illnesses. Overflow funds will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation – which sent Bradley and her family on a Disney trip back when she was sick – the Ronald McDonald House, and a plastic anemia organization.

Thanks to donations already made, 500 copies were ready for distribution on Sunday.

“I’m looking to send 10 books to each hospital in New York, then make my way all the way out,” said Bradley, who noted that if someone knows anyone suffering from the disease, they can receive a copy of the book free of charge.

Friends, family members, local businesses and attendees of Sunday’s event said that they were happy to be involved.

“We hope to be able to give someone else the happiness we were able to witness firsthand, with my sister being a bone-marrow transplant survivor,” said Bradley’s brother, John Hasemann.

“I was so inspired by [Bradley’s] story, courage and compassion,” said Patchogue resident Stephanie Ida.

“For the little bit of suffering I may have to endure, it may save another person’s life,” said event participant Lisa W. of Sayville. “That’s why I donated.”

Overall, Bradley expressed her gratitude to everyone who participated, and said that she is planning on making the drive an annual event.

“So many people came together to make this event amazing, and I appreciate all the support,” said Bradley, who also thanked her sister, who she called “my best friend,” for donating and truly giving her the gift of life. “When I was sick, so many people organized events and raised so much money to cover my medical expenses. I can’t even tell you how many fundraisers were done for me. The community really came together then, and they continue to come together now. I’m so grateful.”

To learn more about Bradley’s book and/or donate to the cause, visit https://chuffed.org/project/a-shoulder-to-lean-on or email KBradley116@gmail.com.

To register to donate, visit https://giftoflife.org/register.