• By Jeff Olsen

Be The Match Donor Gives Christina New Birthday

October 23, 2015

Woodside Christina smiling while sitting on the bank of a river

Christina Woodside was knocked down — hard, but thanks to a Be The Match donor, she’s back up — and running.

“My family is like every other average family in America,” Christina says at the start of a self-published YouTube video that chronicles her health journey.

As part of an active family, Christina, her husband and their five children enjoyed running, biking, fishing and snow sports. But all that changed the day after Thanksgiving in 2013.

The diagnosis

Christina thought she’d come down with strep throat and went to a clinic in her hometown of Mankato, Minn. The test came back negative for strep, but an extremely high white cell count indicated a more serious problem. Tests at Mayo Clinic in Rochester would soon reveal Christina had leukemia. “I threw up right after they told me,” she says, describing the agony hearing the diagnosis.

Shortly after being admitted to the hospital, Christina learned, without a stem cell transplant, she wouldn’t live beyond a few weeks.

“It was a no-brainer,” she said of her decision to go ahead with the transplant.

The donor

At first, it seemed like it would not be difficult to find a donor. However, during her hospital stay, Christina’s leukemia returned several times, and she had to have chemotherapy.

“They can’t do a transplant if you have full-blown cancer,” she explained. “By the time it came down to it, there were three donors, then it was down to just one donor.”

After a long wait, Christina had the transplant on June 4, 2014 — the day she calls her “new birthday.”

“I am so thankful for my donor and for the Be The Match organization,” she says. “I am thankful for the medical staff and the support I received from family, friends and even people I’ve never met. I learned that people are good, and miracles do happen."

The organization

Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), is a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to helping every patient get the lifesaving transplant they need.

“It is of utmost importance to become a registered donor on Be The Match for bone marrow or stem cell donation, since simple measures can save someone’s life,” says Mayo Clinic hematologist Dr. Shahrukh Hashmi. “Without a stem cell transplant, Christina would not be here with us.”

The recovery

Things didn’t improve right away for Christina. When she relapsed in January 2015, options were limited due to previous chemotherapy treatments. Christina took an experimental drug that caused a seizure and sent her into a coma for seven days.

When she came out of the coma, Christina’s battle got even tougher. She had to relearn to stand, walk and talk. The work was difficult, but thanks to the support of her family, Christina made it through the journey.

"Most importantly, I am thankful to be alive,” Christina says.

Today, Christina is continuing her physical therapy sessions and is returning to her family’s active lifestyle. She bought a recumbent bicycle and recently did the 12-mile River Ramble ride with her daughter. Earlier this month, Christina marked another milestone by completing the Mankato Marathon 5K run.

Be The Match drives are being held in Rochester, Minn. in October.

Oct. 26, Francis Employee Cafeteria, Rooms H/J, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Oct. 29, Harwick 1-16, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Oct. 29, Eisenberg Employee Cafeteria, Room 6, 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

If you don't live in Rochester, check the Be The Match website to find a drive near you.

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