DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The split-second choice of a college student ended up saving the life of a man he had never met – until Thursday.
Cody Strull, now a sales executive with the Dallas Stars, did a simple cheek swab – and gave a 60-year-old Wisconsin man the gift of a lifetime. It’s a meeting between two friends who have never actually met. But they share a bond like family.
“I’m sure I’m just going to want to give him a big hug, and I’m sure he’s going to want to do the same,” said Strull.
“I’m hoping it’s not too emotional,” said Max Stephenson.
At the 6th annual Awards Breakfast for non-profit DKMS, Stephenson finally had a chance to say thank you to the 24-year-old. Stephenson was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last year. A bone marrow transplant was his best shot. Cody Strull was an 100% match.
“It almost seems like an intervention from above,” said Stephenson. “And then when I found out he was only 23 years old. I thought, ‘What 59-year-old gentleman wouldn’t want that?’ ”
Strull registered on a whim in college – and then forgot about it.
“And one day, out of nowhere, there’s a phone call and you have to step up and do what you can,” said Strull.
Strull donated his stem cells, giving Stephenson a chance to watch his seven grandchildren grow up. As Stephenson recovered, they shared phone calls, letters, and even gag gifts.
“This was his fight with cancer. He was in a boxing ring,” said Strull. “I was just in his corner, wiping the sweat off his face, making sure he was hydrated.”
Today, Stephenson is cancer-free. Bearing a letter from his four children – all of whom are now registered as bone marrow donors – they’ll tour Dallas together. A gift of life they hope will yield a lifetime of friendship.
“I really would like to keep in touch with Cody and be part of his life in that way just because he’s part of my life forever,” said Stephenson.
Strull will host Stephenson and his wife at the Dallas Stars game, where Stephenson will receive a jersey and a visit to the penalty box. They also plan to visit Dealey Plaza this weekend.