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Republic Newspaper publisher donates bone marrow to save a life

Tony Cox had a unique gift to give, and a 56-year-old woman may beat leukemia because of it. Only time will tell.

It’s a potential life-saving gift many people have: healthy bone marrow.

Tested to be a match for this unidentified leukemia victim whose bone marrow was being eaten up by cancer, Cox donated one-and-one-half liters of bone marrow Sept. 19 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. His recipient received the healthy bone marrow within 12 hours. If cancer free after five years, this 56-year-old woman will be labeled as cured.

“I got the first report (Oct. 30) that my recipient is doing well,” Cox said of a telephone call he labeled as “a little scary” before hearing the good news. “Maybe the first 100 days is critical, and the first year for her is worrisome. But so far, so good.”

Cox will be praying that “God’s plan” will allow him to meet this 56-year-old woman cancer free when the Cooperative Appalachian Marrow Program (CAMP) allows them to meet next fall — one year after the donation.

“I have a great desire to meet her, and for her to meet my family and get to know each other,” said Cox, publisher of the farragutpress. “I mean, we’re bonded. We have a connection now. I want her to be a part of my life, and hopefully she has that same desire.”

After receiving word that he was a likely match last summer, “I was excited, happy, and most of all blessed,” Cox said. “The thing about it is that it’s all part of God’s plan. I can’t explain the high, and the overall good feeling you get from playing that big a role in God’s plan. What we’re supposed to do is help each other.

“Was I uncomfortable for a couple of weeks, a little bit,” Cox added about the immediate swelling and two to four weeks of stiffness and soreness following the procedure. “But did it cost me anything to help, no. Was it hard to do, no.”

Donors must be between the age of 18 and 60 “and in good, general health, no cancer, hepatitis, heart disease, diabetes,” said Linda Hilton, donor center co-coordinator at CAMP. “But what we also look for is a commitment, these are folks who are very committed to help others. They donate to a stranger, someone they’ve never met.”


Cox, 36, emphasizes that a donor and his family need to be aware of the entire process and any possible risks, though Cox and Hilton both stress the risks are slight.

“You actually go through a surgery,” Cox said. “You are put under anesthesia, you are asleep during surgery, and there are always complications that can happen with that. The surgery itself is a simple procedure.”

Cox said he was nervous “the morning of the procedure,” but came through it without any problems.

Cox received “the ultimate” physical examination before being accepted as a donor.

“The recipient is the ultimate benefactor, but it’s also nice for you to know exactly where you are,” he said. “When Lea Ann (Cox’s wife) and I were going through the original consultation on this, the doctor told us ‘you need to be aware that this is the most thorough physical anyone will ever go through. And from time to time we find out things about you that aren’t going to be good.’”

Fox example, “they’re going through it and they find out that you have something in your blood stream that’s not supposed to be there,” he said.

But Cox is quick to point out that for him, “there was no pressure, I was ready and rarin’ to go,” he said. “Every step is completely explained to you. There was nothing in my mind that stood out and said, ‘you need to worry.’

“But I had a tremendous amount of support,” Cox added. “You have your family that’s praying for you, you have your church that’s praying for you. I had so much support.”

Cox cites one uplifting example.

“I was walking out of church one night, and choir has just finished practicing, and the entire choir had come out and said ‘wow, what an amazing thing for you to do, and we’re going to be praying for you Friday morning,’” Cox said. “I could feel that, I could feel that people were praying for me. It was just a great comfort the entire time.

“The entire process does make you start thinking about things,” he added. “The biggest thing I thought about during the whole thing was a lot of people were coming up to me and talking about ‘what I great thing you’re doing’ and ‘how brave.’ But it really wasn’t a great thing I was doing.”

This newspaper publisher and vice president of Republic Newspapers, Inc. puts the situation into perspective.

“The recipient is really the person who is brave,” Cox said. “The recipient is really the person who has all of these things that they are fighting for. All I was was just a vessel. I just had something somebody could use.

“That was really, really exciting.”

For more information on becoming a bone marrow donor, contact Linda Hilton at (423) 854-5658.

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