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Celebrating at Roswell Park Milestone in blood, marrow transplants

The good news was that the headaches of the past eight weeks weren't caused by a bad sinus infection.

The bad news was that he had leukemia.

"That changed my life forever, in a lot of ways -- most of them good," Bryce Morgan of Buffalo told 65 people attending a celebration of 1,000 blood and marrow transplants at Roswell Park Cancer Institute on Tuesday evening.

One of the good ways it changed his life was the woman who accompanied him to the reception -- Linda Campagna, the nurse at Praxair Inc., where Morgan is a consultant in information technology.

"I really didn't have any family here," said Morgan, a native of Cleveland, "so I asked some of my co-workers to act as a family support group. The nurse at Praxair kind of threw herself into this assignment. She held a marrow drive at work. The one thing I didn't expect, though, is what happens when you ask an Italian-American woman to be part of your family."

His listeners, most of them blood and marrow transplant survivors, chuckled.

"Linda, the nurse from work, came to see me 22 times in my 40 days at the hospital," Morgan said. "She had decided that I was going to make it, and that I was worth getting to know. It took four months for me to figure that out."

More chuckles.

They were married in May 2004, after his long recovery.

"We knew of each other at work," his wife recalled later. "I had given him shots for international travel. When he called me with his diagnosis, you could have pushed me right over with a feather. I was stunned."

Having a sister who survived cancer at Roswell Park, his future wife helped him research his medical options and encouraged him to stay with Roswell and Dr. Meir Wetzler.

"I had to look at some unpleasant treatment options," Morgan said. "I was 46 (in 2000) and a transplant was a risky proposition. The best centers in the world put the odds at maybe 70 percent, with just a one-year survival."

If he'd chosen interferon treatments, he might survive for six years, he said, but with an unpromising quality of life.

"I wanted to roll the dice once for a cure," he said. "Transplant is a cure. If I'd had small children, I probably would have taken the six years, rather than the 70-30 odds."

When he married Linda Campagna, he instantly became the father of four.

Morgan was out of work for six months, followed by 18 months of part-time work until he was fully healed. The bone marrow came from an anonymous donor through the National Bone Marrow Registry. The blood platelets came from 30 to 40 local donors, most of them from Praxair.

"Some of them would car pool to Roswell, donate platelets and then come up and visit me," Morgan recalled.

One of those faithful visitors from work, Tom Naeger, became best man at their wedding.


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