July 8, 2005

Meeting brings donor, recipient together

Featured Image

Two-year-old bone marrow transplant recipient Barrett Harris gives a yellow rose to her donor, Molly Setnick, at their first meeting at the Metro Nashville Airport. Barrett’s mother, Audrea Harris (center) looks on.
photo by Dana Johnson

Meeting brings donor, recipient together

Most people passing through Gate C at the Nashville International Airport on Friday, June 24 at about 4 p.m. probably noticed Barrett Harris.

You couldn't miss her. She recently learned to walk and wanted everyone to see her doing it. The 2-year-old may be a little behind schedule in learning to walk, but she's making up for lost time.

At just 3 months old, Barrett was diagnosed with leukemia. A bone marrow donation from an unrelated donor saved her life a few months later.

Now, 18 months later, she is cancer free and was waiting at the airport to meet her marrow donor for the first time.

She spent her time with a half a dozen family and friends, and squealed in protest each time her grandmother retrieved her from the security gate.

The Harris family was waiting on Barrett's marrow donor, 27-year-old Molly Setnick, to join them from Texas for a party in her and Barrett's honor. The family paid Setnick's way for the chance to offer thanks for the gift of life and to spread the word about the importance of bone marrow donation.

According to the National Marrow Donor Program, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed each year with a disease requiring a bone marrow transplant.

“I've talked with Molly several times on the phone, and we've exchanged e-mails and photos, but this is the first time we'll get to meet her,” said Barrett's mother, Audrea Harris.

Neal, Barrett's father, is a quiet guy and hasn't spoken with Barrett's donor on the phone yet, but as he watched his daughter play and entertain those waiting in the terminal, his eyes welled up.

“It's all been so strange,” Neal said. “The donor program lost the information on Barrett's donor, so we weren't able to send her a letter or ask to meet her after a year was up, but then she decided on her own to look us up. The day she got through and asked to contact us was May 25, Barrett's birthday.”

Many things seemed to the family as if they were meant to be. Setnick was a perfect bone marrow match for Barrett, which is very rare. She also happened to be a very healthy donor.

“She's an aerobics instructor and when the doctors saw her marrow they said it was some of the best looking marrow they'd ever seen,” said Audrea Harris.

By 4:10 p.m., the Barrett family was ready for Setnick's arrival. A huge banner welcomed her to Nashville. Barrett, wearing white bows, carried a yellow rose to symbolize friendship. Yellow bows lined the wagon she rode in.

When Setnick and her husband, Ben, finally walked out of Gate C there were many hugs, lots of pictures and tears.

Setnick said the meeting was well worth the 18-month wait to meet “the baby,” as she'd always known Barrett.

“It's so amazing to me,” Setnick said. “That of all the people in the world, it was me who was her match. She's adorable and it's so rewarding to finally get to give her a hug.”