Manassas Journal Messenger | Teen meets lifesaving donor for first time

K.J. Edwards is healthy enough to join his classmates next month during Hylton High School’s graduation ceremonies. He credits this to a man from Guam he had never met before Monday night.

“From his letters, he seems like a really, really nice guy,” K.J. said Monday as he waited for Chris Stovall to arrive. “I’m excited to meet him and maybe a little nervous.”

“He saved my life,” K.J. said. “He is a part of me.”

K.J. was 13 when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He waited two years until a bone marrow match could be found.

That match was Stovall, a 37-year-old senior master sergeant in the Air Force who is currently stationed in Guam. Stovall donated his marrow to K.J., although they were not informed of each other’s identity for some time.

K.J. is now free of the life-threatening leukemia.

Stovall recently came back to the United States to visit family in Tennessee. He decided to drive from Tennessee to Philadelphia to catch a flight back to Guam.

On the way, he stopped in Woodbridge to meet K.J. and his family.

“I’m so grateful to meet him,” Stovall said of K.J.

The feeling was mutual.

“He is great. I’m at a loss for words,” K.J. said.

The journey to this new and special friendship was a long one. It was in 1992 while stationed in North Dakota that Stovall said he signed up to be a bone marrow donor.

“I didn’t hesitate to do it,” Stovall said.

While he thought about the possibility of being called upon to donate, time passed and “then I didn’t think about it too much,” Stovall said.

So he may have been a bit surprised when he finally received the call all the way over in Guam.

Stovall was told he was a close match and was flown to Bethesda Air Force Base for further testing and then for the bone marrow donation.

“We were told he gave an overabundance of bone marrow,” said Terri Edwards, K.J.’s mother. “He even offered to wait around in case we needed more.”

K.J.’s bone marrow transplant was done at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “That was the toughest part,” K.J. said.

Yet K.J. endured. While he did develop some other health problems following the transplant, “I can live with them,” he said.

Stovall said he felt that he only played a small role in K.J.’s recovery. “He did all the hard work,” Stovall said.

While both the donor and the recipient said they were anxious to learn the identity of the other, procedures called for a certain length of time to pass before they could contact each other. It was almost 18 months before K.J. and his family were allowed to send a letter to Stovall. He answered right away.

“This has been a great experience for all of us,” Stovall said. “I would [donate] all the time if I could. I would hope anyone would.”

Terri Edwards said she had been looking forward to meeting the man that saved her son’s live for quite some time. “We really wanted to meet him,” she said. “This is exciting. He is a wonderful man.”

Staff writer Aileen Streng can be reached at (703) 878-8010

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