Blog Post by Jim Cook, Ruling Elder Member of our Presbytery and Past Interim Presbytery Leader, along with his Stem Cell Donor, Ludwig

Original “Be the Match” Blog Posted on April 13, 2021 –FOUND HERE
Below find the recent and exciting update! 

Dear Ludwig,
My name is Jim Cook and I am the recipient of your donated stem cells.  I am alive today because you agreed to donate your cells in October 2018.  There is no way that I can adequately thank you for your gift, but let me at least try to tell you how grateful I am.
In March 2018 I began experiencing shortness of breath and loss of energy.  Shortly thereafter my doctor told me that I had “myelodisplastic syndrome”, a fatal form of blood cancer.  There is no cure.  My only hope would be a stem cell transplant, if we could find a match.  He said that without that transplant, I would have between 6 months and maybe two years to live.  They tested my sister and my two children for a DNA match that might work.  Their DNA was somewhat a match, but not really good enough, so a worldwide search began.  And then they found you.
I don’t know what the system is in Germany to get a DNA registry, but obviously you had to volunteer to actually donate your blood to extract the stem cells to send to me.  i hope that process was relatively painless and not a great inconvenience for you.  Of course I greatly appreciate that you made that effort.
I was impressed by the fact that you were only 24 years old when you donated your cells.  That probably explains the amazing change in my fortunes after the transplant.  I was 70 when I got your cells – and they have worked a miracle.  Before the transplant the doctors kill virtually all of my blood cells through chemotherapy and full body radiation.  That process, plus the cancer itself, left me extremely weak and lifeless.  After the transplant – which is merely like a blood transfusion – I slowly, but surely began to regain strength and energy.  I was in the hospital almost a month as I recovered.  And I remained very vulnerable to infection for some time.
Within several months, however, I was able to resume a very normal – and active – life.  One year later my wife and I flew to Athens and took a 10 day sailboat cruise through the Adriatic, ending in Venice.  This was our long planned 50th wedding anniversary present to ourselves.  I have resumed my chores around our home and little farm – driving our small tractor to clean up after our horses and donkeys; throwing hay bales out of the loft and stacking them on the barn floor; chasing the chickens when they escape, walking the dogs, and (most importantly) keeping up with our five grandchildren (ages 9 – 19 today)!
I will try to include a picture of me taken about a year ago.  Without the transplant I faced months of blood transfusions and chemotherapy in an attempt to keep me alive as long as possible, and then certain death months or maybe a year or so later.  With your gift, I’ve had 3 1/2 years of a full and active life.  No one knows what the future holds, but my life after the transplant has been wonderful, and I face that future with hope.  And I thank you every day for your gift that made it all possible.
Sometime before the transplant I did a DNA ancestry test.  I was mostly English/Scottish, with a little German.  I did another test after the transplant, and I am now 85% German !  With about 15% Norwegian, as I recall.
I hope you are able to interpret this – because my German is absolutely non-existent!  A year or so before my illness my wife and I took a cruise on the Rhine and stopped in a few towns in Germany, including Cologne, which I believe is not too far from Essen.  What a beautiful country.  But whatever German I may have picked up on that short visit is long gone.
If you get a chance and are willing, I would love to hear back from you.  But if that is not possible, I just wanted to let you know that your gift was successfully used to safe a life.  And that person is eternally grateful !

Thank you ! Thank you ! Thank you !
Very sincerely,

In Reply

Hey Jim,

It took me a while to get back to you, because I was kind of busy recently, and I really wanted to take some time for a proper answer.
First things first: I’m glad that you made such a great recovery and I’m happy that I was able to help. You’re very welcome, and I hope my stem cells will continue to do a good job for many more years.
It was really not that much of a inconvenience to donate them. I’m also donating blood regularly and the stem cell extraction was barely more. Definitely nothing compared to the pain and suffering it helped to avoid, and I think it makes sense to take that into account.
Indeed the German system works in a way that you volunteer to be added to the data bank and if there’s a match, and someone might need your stem cells, there’s another few times where they inform about the procedure and also about the consequences for the cancer patient, but without putting any pressure on people.  I think they’re doing a very good job and maybe you can thank them with a little donation if you feel like you’d like to support them to help others in your situation? But I guess they also charge the health insurance of the patients etc pretty good..
I registered with them when my favorite football player (you’d call it soccer probably) made some advertising on social media. Actually they came back to me some time after the donation! Apparently some of his staff or management was informed that someone actually donated stem cells after registering through the link in his advertisement.
So, me and my girlfriend were invited to a game and they made some PR Video which you can find here:
My stem cells won’t help you to understand the German text, but maybe some online translator will do a slightly better job. Also feel free to share it with anyone who might be interested in it as well.
We really had a great time there and even though I didn’t expect anything from the donation other than the feeling of doing a good deed, it still felt like being rewarded in a way. Also hopefully this inspired some more people to register.
It’s really nice hearing from you and knowing that  my donation had such a positive effect in so many lifes. I lost my grandfather a few months ago and he was well beyond eighty, nearly ninety. I’d really missed out on some great memories and talks with him if he’d died earlier, so it’s nice to know that your grandchildren will have the same chance. The wisdom and experience grandfathers can share with their descendants is really worth a lot.
About the ancestry test you did: it puzzles me that there is a Norwegian part now. I have no idea where that might come from. My grandparents from my father’s side are Westfalian as far as I know, settled in the area of Paderborn for many generations. My mother’s side is from Eastern Germany, with her mother being from Eastern Prussia and her father being from Silesia. Maybe I should do one of these tests as well and figure it out.
Anyway it’s very interesting that you didn’t have German ancestors apparently, so our last common ancestor lived quite a few thousand years ago, but still our genetics are similar enough to allow the stem cell transfusion to work. To me, it just proves how diverse the human genome is and that we are all more closely related than we might think.
Also its funny that you’ve been to Cologne a few years ago. My girlfriend’s parents live there and we visit them quite often, so there’s a chance that we crossed our paths back then, or at least walked the same pier or ate in the same Cafe at some point.
The Rhine is a very nice river and I’m around it quite often, as it’s also a great fishing ground. As you said you sail, maybe you like fishing as well? It would be cool to share a hobby, and my current farming is limited to chili pepper plants on my balcony.
I’d be happy to hear again from you soon and I appreciate how thankful you are.

How Can You Be The Match?  CLICK HERE


  • Posted June 21, 2022 4:31 pm
    Paul Reiter

    Thank you Jim for your story and for connecting us to Ludwig. May you continue to be blessed!

  • Posted June 21, 2022 4:51 pm
    Jim Cook

    Ludwig and I have continued to exchange emails and pictures. Be sure to check out the PR video he linked. It’s in German, of course, but you’ll get the picture. Apparently, since we matched and he agreed to donate his stem cells for me, the registry in Germany did this promotional piece that included Ludwig, his girlfriend and his favorite “football” player. Hope it helped to encourage others to participate. It’s been great to continue to interact with my very real “blood brother!”


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