“It’s the easiest way to save somebody’s life,” Ted Conrad simply puts it. Six years after getting his cheek swabbed to join the Be The Match National Marrow Donor Program, Conrad’s experience as a bone marrow donor came full circle as he was finally able to meet the woman whose life he saved.
Emotional would be merely an understatement when describing the events that unfolded April 8 at the Sixth Annual Bash for the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation. Prior to the meeting, a video was played that introduced donor Teddy Conrad and recipient Judy Cooper and told the story of how these two lives collided. Conrad, a 2013 Ursinus alum, is a humble but vibrant young man, most notorious throughout the Ursinus community for his aggressive talent on Patterson Field as former running back standout for the Bears. He was swabbed in the mouth with a Q-tip in the Floy Lewis Bakes Center in 2010 to join the Be The Match Registry. Cooper, a grandmother who moved to Georgia to be closer to her family after she lost her husband to pancreatic cancer, was diagnosed with leukemia and told that she would need a bone marrow stem cell transplant. After discovering that Cooper’s two brothers were not suitable matches, her name was added to the long list of the bone marrow registry. In 2011, Conrad and Cooper were announced a match and Conrad went through with the donor procedure. It wasn’t until a year later that he was given any information about Cooper. Their only contact prior to April 8, 2016 was letters and telephone calls.
“Finally meeting will bring us closer together. It will be very emotional and I love him and thank him all the time for going through with this,” said Cooper at the end of the video.
The screen turned black and it was the moment everyone in the packed country club was waiting for. The 400 attendees of this event, including local celebrity Brian Westbrook, watched in awe as the magical meeting took place between these two, ending with a long-lasting embrace and an eruption of applause. Both Conrad and Cooper struggled to finish their speeches, their emotions hard to hide.
Not only was Conrad united with Cooper, but he was honored with the Gift of Life Award.
“To be honest, in the beginning I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into,” Conrad admits. “I didn’t realize that I could be the one to actually save someone’s life.” Reflecting on this entire experience, Conrad chooses the moment of actually meeting Cooper face to face as the most rewarding. “I knew I saved this woman’s life, but I feel like it didn’t really hit me until watching the video and then finally seeing her face.”
Meeting her donor was just as exciting and emotional for Cooper. Her appreciation and gratitude toward Conrad was evident when she said, “His mother raised a very fine man. He’s my hero.”