Transplant recipient's essay nets visit with donor

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | January 22, 2014

Image with caption: Michael Henkel, center, and Lori McFate, second from right, with friends during Henkel's visit.

Michael Henkel, center, and Lori McFate, second from right, with friends during Henkel's visit.

Lori McFate, an Iowa resident who received a bone marrow transplant at The Nebraska Medical Center in June 2006, won a national essay contest that allowed her to meet her donor for the first time.

Angel MedFlight, a worldwide air ambulance company, transported Michael Henkel from his native Germany to the United States so he could meet McFate and her family. The trip was part of Angel MedFlight's annual "Holiday Homecoming" contest.

Interested participants submitted 500-word essays on why their nominee should be chosen for the homecoming flight. Essays were accepted from anyone with a story to tell.

Lori nominated Henkel, who donated life-saving bone marrow through the international registry more than seven years ago. The pair waited to meet as they now share the same DNA, and each considers the other "family." Lori said she asked Angel MedFlight to fly "home" this man who gave her the ultimate gift: life.

Click here to see a video on Michael's visit.

Lori wrote in her essay: "He is not my brother, cousin, uncle or any other family member. But we are 'family' because we now have the exact same DNA, blood type and bone marrow."

Lori and Michael met in December in the Quad Cities.

"How do you say thank you to somebody who unselfishly does something, thousands of miles away?" Lori asks Michael in the video.

"No need to say thank you," he replies.

Lori and Michael were matched through Be the Match.

Angel MedFlight's goal in this inaugural campaign was to help someone reunite or connect with a loved one, allowing the community to determine the recipient of the donated flight. For more information on Angel MedFlight's Holiday Homecoming contest, click here.

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Diane Bessette
January 22, 2014 at 8:43 AM

Happy tears for all of them this morning!