Strangers finally meet after donor saves woman's life through stem cell transplant

Josh Einiger Image
Friday, May 5, 2023
Strangers bond through stem cell transplant that saved woman's life
Ryan Keegan and Debbie Giroux finally met Thursday following a stem cell transplant through Be the Match that transformed both of their lives. Josh Einiger has the story.

LOWER MANHATTAN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The ultimate story of kindness resulted in an emotional meeting between a young man from New Jersey and a woman from North Carolina, who is alive today because he supplied her with a stem cell transplant to help her fight leukemia.

At a fundraising benefit in a downtown ballroom, two strangers were about to meet, but it wouldn't be just any meeting.

"I don't think I'll even be able to speak when I meet him," Debbie Giroux said.

Giroux was about to meet the man who saved her life.


"Oh, I think it's going to be pretty emotional," Ryan Keegan said. "We're an emotional family. I didn't want to cry in front of everyone but I think the tears will be flowing."

When his father was diagnosed with leukemia, Keegan became a stem cell donor to help his dad or anyone else suffering from blood cancers.

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With a cheek swab, he joined the registry at the nonprofit, Be the Match. And he was.

"From cheek swab to phone call, it was under half a year which is crazy," Keegan said.

"It's very surreal because you know that if you don't find that match, you're not going to survive," Giroux said.

Doctors harvested his stem cells at a lab near his home in Howell, New Jersey, and a few months later, they found their way to Charlotte, North Carolina and into Giroux's blood, giving her a second chance at life.

"This year alone we'll save over 7,000 lives, and since our inception, almost 130,000 lives have been saved," said Be the Match CEO Amy Ronneberg.

Be the Match doesn't just run the registry, it also helps families cover their steep costs during the year it can take to recover after a bone marrow transplant.

On Thursday night, Giroux and Keegan finally had a chance to meet. She no longer has cancer, and she now has an indelible bond with a one-time stranger.

"I think we're living proof that this works and join the registry and make the difference, you can save someone's life," Keegan said.


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