18th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest People
Best Mom Ever

In March, 2018, my grandmother Ruth was diagnosed with AML-MRC, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, with myelodysplastic related changes. It originated as a disease called Myelodysplastic Syndrome, or MDS. She was 70 years old at the time. On December 3rd of 2019, she underwent a life-saving bone marrow stem cell transplant. On a cellular level, she is a new human. We are eternally grateful to her anonymous donor, one of only a few on earth who was a perfect genetic match. It's not her real birthday in this image; it's a metaphorical birthday, a way to make this transplant more light hearted and positive, framing it as a fresh start. This transplant was overwhelming and frightening for both her and our family; there was a high risk of her experiencing GvH, or Graft versus Host, a reaction to the new stem cells which might have had dangerous, grueling side effects, and which may have ended her life. The decision of whether or not to go through with the transplant, considering the possible repercussions, was daunting. Ultimately, she chose the new stem cells, as it was her only real chance at lengthening her life. They came in a small plastic bag of bright red liquid, ushered in with an urgent tension by a team of nurses. It was freshly delivered by plane from Europe. You could see the tiny cells floating through the cord as they replaced her own.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 12.2020
Date Uploaded: 09.2020
Photo Location: Gilbert, Arizona, United States of America
Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T5
Copyright: © Chloe Koebel