He’s generous, down to his bones

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventAll Winkelman knew was that his bone marrow had given a woman dying of leukemia new life. And all Sholkoff knew was that she was lucky to get it. With no siblings, and her own three children only a half-match, she would have to rely on a stranger to save her life. The doctors on the City of Hope’s bone-marrow transplant team told her there were only 50 registered donors worldwide that could be a possible match. In the end, there turned out to be only one perfect, 10-point match for her: an attorney in Detroit named Roger Winkelman. The bone-marrow transplant rules dictate that if both donor and recipient agree, they can contact each other after a year. They had promised they would try not to get too emotional when they finally met face to face Friday. But, of course, they did. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to. For more than a year, Sandra Sholkoff, a 67-year-old grandmother from Woodland Hills, and Roger Winkelman, a 51-year-old father of two from Detroit, could only wonder about each other. They didn’t know each other’s names, anything about their families, or even where each other lived in the country. Winkelman and Sholkoff had spoken on the phone several times, but never met. Not until Friday at the City of Hope’s 30th anniversary Celebration of Life bone marrow transplant reunion. All the phone promises not to get too emotional went out the window. They hugged and, yeah, they cried. “Thank you for saving my life,” Sholkoff said. When the call for his bone marrow finally came, Roger Winkelman didn’t think twice. “I had a chance to save someone’s life – it was a no-brainer,” he said Saturday morning on his way to Woodland Hills with his wife, Linda, for a brunch with Sholkoff and her family. It was because of Linda that he even had this wonderful opportunity to save a life. It was 18 years ago, but in his mind it was only yesterday, Winkelman said. Linda was giving birth to their oldest daughter when his wife started bleeding uncontrollably. “She lost half her blood supply, and I thank God every day that they had the blood to give her,” he said. “I had always given blood, but I redoubled my efforts after that.” It was so long ago that he had forgotten he had also agreed to become a donor for the national bone marrow registry. Until that phone call about 18 months ago telling him he was a perfect match for a woman dying of acute myeloid leukemia. What he did next was a no-brainer. Winkelman went in for a full physical and then received a series of shots over four weeks to make his bones excrete the stem cells that would give Sholkoff new life. “It wasn’t painful at all,” he says. “My bones ached a little after they took the bone marrow out, but it went away.” Meanwhile, at the City of Hope in Duarte, Sholkoff was being prepped for surgery by Dr. Stephen Forman, who could tell her nothing about the donor except it was a man. “He said if the bone marrow arrived before noon, it was from someone living in California, and if it was after midnight, it was from out of the country,” she said. “Mine came in at dinner time, which told me it was from a man living somewhere in the United States.” After the operation, Sandra’s children gathered around her bedside anxious to know if she was all right. Sandra looked up at them and smiled. She knew she needed to give them and herself something to laugh about to break the tension. “I’m fine,” she said, dropping her voice low to sound like a man. Half her blood cells and all her bone marrow were now male. Last September, a little more than a year after the successful bone marrow transplant, Winkelman got another phone call. His wife told him it was from a woman named Sandra Sholkoff in Woodland Hills, Calif. She wanted to thank him for saving her life. “I was a blithering idiot, crying on the phone, thanking him,” Sandra said Saturday, waiting for the Winkelmans to arrive. “My hair had come back in curly after the operation, and I asked him on the phone if he had curly hair,” she said. “He laughed and told me he was bald.” If there is one thing both Sandra and Roger want you to take away after reading their story it’s this: Having the chance to save someone’s life is a no-brainer. To join the National Marrow Donor Program’s registry call (800) 627-7692 or go to the registry’s Web site at www.marrow.org. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. [email protected] (818) 713-3749160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more