Stem cell recipient Larry Parks and donor Beverly Johnson finally met this month in Longview

Red Deer man meets stem cell donor who saved his life

It took seven years, but Larry Parks finally met the stem cell donor from Texas who saved his life.

It took seven years, but Larry Parks finally met the stem cell donor from Texas who saved his life.

Parks, of Red Deer, met Beverly Johnson on Oct. 24 in front the crowd of guests at a banquet in Longview, Texas.

“It’s still emotional for me,” said Parks, 60, on Monday after returning from Texas last week.

“I’ve spoken to so many groups and proudly told everyone about my donor from Longview, Texas. But I kind of given up on ever meeting her.”

In January 2007, Parks went to the doctor expecting to find out he had the flu. Instead he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

“The day after I had my diagnosis, I was in University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton with my first chemo treatment that night. There was no time to think about anything. I either took my treatment that day or else I did not survive to the end of the week,” said Central Alberta Co-op’s general manager.

After three intensive rounds of chemotherapy, he went into remission and found out a stem cell donor had been found.

His stem cell transplant went ahead on June 8, 2007 at Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary.

One year later, with Johnson’s permission, Parks was given her name, address and e-mail address to contact her.

He sent an e-mail, but there was no reply.

Six weeks later he tried again by mailing a letter and a year later sent another e-mail. In 2012, he sent a final e-mail.

Parks said, “I nearly fell off my chair,” when an e-mail arrived this year in June from Johnson inviting him to meet her at the banquet organized by Because I Care, an American charity that encourages people to become marrow and blood cell donors through Be The Match registry.

Johnson did get his original e-mail in 2008 but for whatever reason, he never got her reply.

Johnson, 54, said she lost her ability to try and contact him again when her computer crashed along with his e-mail address.

As the years went by, Johnson did wonder how Parks was doing. Then this year she was given the opportunity to ask him to attend the Because I Care banquet where each year a donor and recipient are chosen to meet.

“When I met him, it was just like long-lost family. Larry and (his wife) Enid are just wonderful people and I’m just so happy to be part of their lives now,” said Johnson who was reached by phone in the U.S. on Monday.

Johnson, a volunteer with Because I Care, said it’s just a wonderful feeling to know she was able to help.

“I don’t feel like I did anything special. I know God had his hand in this. He touched my family’s life and Larry’s life by having everything go well for him.

“It definitely was a miracle.”

Johnson signed up for the donor registry back in 1999 at a booth at a Longview street festival.

“I just had this feeling that God would use me one day to touch another person’s life,” said Johnson who is now retired from AT&T where she worked as a outside plant engineer.

One day in 2007, Johnson happened to hear how a co-worker’s family member had been an organ donor.

“I just casually mentioned to them that I signed up to be a possible bone marrow donor and never heard anything. It wasn’t two weeks later when I received a letter in the mail that said I was a potential match to someone. I was so excited. It was like — I should have said that years ago,” Johnson said with a laugh.

All she knew was a 52-year-old man in another country was in dire need of a transplant.

Following more tissue typing and matching she discovered she was a very good stem cell match.

After five days of injections to increase stem cells in her blood, she went to Dallas to give her donation which was rushed by helicopter to an airport and flown to Calgary.

Since his brush with death, Parks participates in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, volunteers with Canadian Blood Services and mentors cancer patients through Cancer Connection.

And he is very grateful to Because I Care.

“If it wasn’t for groups like them, I wouldn’t be here,” Parks said.

Parks and his wife also had the opportunity to get to know Johnson and her husband Troy.

“We basically spent four days with them and you know what — we’re going to be life-long friends.”

Just Posted

Trudeau poised to shuffle, retool cabinet with focus on Liberals’ team for 2019

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau will shuffle his front benches Wednesday to install… Continue reading

Aecon Group joint venture wins Enbridge Line 3 replacement contract

TORONTO — Aecon Group Inc. says its joint venture with Robert B.… Continue reading

Conservative party pulls attack ad of black man walking over Trudeau tweet

OTTAWA — The Conservative party pulled an attack ad from its Twitter… Continue reading

Groundbreaking ceremony held for new international bridge

DETROIT — U.S. and Canadian officials touted the friendship between the two… Continue reading

Elon Musk apologizes for calling cave rescue diver a ‘pedo’

BANGKOK — Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has apologized for calling… Continue reading

Destiny’s Child singer Williams seeks mental health help

LOS ANGELES — Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams says she’s seeking help… Continue reading

A Comic-Con without Marvel, HBO gives others a chance to pop

Over 130,000 pop culture devotees are descending on San Diego’s Gaslamp District… Continue reading

Record 10 homers as AL wins All-Star Game 8-6 in 10 innings

American League 8 National League 6 (1o innings) WASHINGTON — A record… Continue reading

Photos: Red Deer barn dance entertains children, adults Tuesday

Hundreds of Central Albertans started their Westerner Days celebrations early with an… Continue reading

Man suffers critical injuries, Red Deer police arrest woman in pedestrian crash

A man is in hospital with critical injuries and Mounties have arrested… Continue reading

Cull hasn’t been able to solve bunny burden in Alberta mountain town of Canmore

CANMORE, Alta. — Problems persist in an Alberta mountain town overrun with… Continue reading

Canada should help Holocaust denier on trial in Germany: civil liberties group

OTTAWA — A civil liberties group is urging the Canadian government to… Continue reading

Westerner Days: Send us your photos

Your reader photo may just make the pages of the Adovcate.

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month