Morgan native’s life-saving bone marrow donation recognized

MORGAN-A retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant with Morgan roots appeared on the Today show last week, tearfully embracing a soldier stricken with leukemia whose life was saved by his bone marrow donation.

Keith Engholm, the son of Gloria and Galen Engholm of rural Morgan and a Department of Defense Program Manager in Montgomery, Ala., just happened to be a perfect bone marrow match for a soldier with a cancer death sentence. Dana Severson turned to the national registry for help after three rounds of high-dose chemotherapy treatments didn’t cure her.

A year after her wedding, Severson, who completed tours in Iraq and Korea as an Apache helicopter electrician before leaving the military to start a family, was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2008. At first, she experienced headaches that wouldn’t go away. She spent the next six months in and out of Northwestern Medical Hospital near Chicago.

“The cancer would go away, then come back,” Severson said. “It was like a roller coaster, but I didn’t feel it was the end. When I learned Keith was a match and willing to donate, I thanked God. There are not words enough to express my gratitude. I feel extremely grateful and happy to be here.”

Engholm humbly responded to Severson by letter after she began recovering after his bone marrow donation made five years ago. “The few awards I received in my 22 1/2 years of (military) service don’t come close to helping you,” Engholm wrote. “It’s awesome, very rewarding,” he said on the Today show.

Engholm had only chatted with Severson on Facebook before meeting her last week on the show. He said he signed up for the Bone Marrow National Registry in the early 1980s. “The process is long, but very rewarding,” Engholm said.

Since recovering, Severson began running, completing half marathons, raising money for Be The March, an organization that raises awareness about blood diseases and encourages people to become donors.

Severson is among 12,000 people who need a bone marrow transplant to survive. Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. For more information, visit bethematch.org/

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com

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