About 4 years ago, Patrick Town’s wife of 18 years, Denice, had been feeling a persistent lack of energy. Her blood counts were low, and her doctors couldn’t figure out why she was so exhausted.
This went on until she noticed excessive bruising for no apparent reason.
She was referred to a hematologist and immediately started receiving blood and platelet transfusions that continued on almost a daily basis for months; her doctor also put her on a powerful steroid and Rituximab, a drug used to treat autoimmune diseases and certain cancers. The transfusions and medications helped make her feel better, but her blood counts kept dropping.
After her third bone marrow biopsy in three months, Denice was finally diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare condition that occurs when the body’s bone marrow stops producing enough new blood cells, leaving patients fatigued and with a raised risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding.
Patrick and Denice looked up the disease online, and first sentence they read said, “blood disorder that’s often fatal.”
We really didn’t know if the sky was gonna fall. Worst time of our lives.
Patrick and Denice contacted Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for a second opinion. Patrick had Denice’s most recent blood report in his pocket at their first appointment with the new physician, who looked at it and said,
Are you trying to scare me?
Denice had virtually no immune system, and her body wasn’t manufacturing any blood components — had she fallen down, she would have bled out internally. The doctor put Denice on “house arrest” until she could perform additional testing.
Denice’s treatment options were limited to ATG therapy or a bone marrow transplant, both risky at her age. Her sister was miraculously a 100% bone marrow match, so doctors scheduled the transplant in less than 60 days.
Denice received massive chemotherapy for four days to destroy whatever of her bone marrow remained, then a bag of her sister’s stem cells.
It was a moving experience to watch life go into her body where it was dead. Everything that could happen from that point forward went the way it was supposed to go.
Patrick describes the actual transplant as anticlimactic, “like getting a unit of blood,” and nothing to be afraid of.
I think it’s the word ‘transplant.’ Really, it’s not that big of a deal! If more people knew how simple it was to be involved in [bone marrow donation], there would be more options for more [patients].
Denice lost her hair (“she has a beautiful skull –Sinead O’Connor has nothing on her,” says Patrick), and Patrick had to completely remodel their condo in 2½ weeks to remove irritants in the carpet and paint, but by April or May, they knew she was going to pull through — her doctors called her a “transplant rockstar.”
Patrick made a promise that he would do something for his fellow man in her honor, and The Union Ride & Charity Rally™ was born.
The first ride in 2012 ended at a casino and raised enough money to feed 13,000 hungry children. The second one in 2013 upped the ante with 1500 riders and a custom Seattle Seahawks bike giveaway.
The 3rd annual Union Ride on August 17 is shaping up to be the largest charity motorcycle ride in Washington state and the largest women’s motorcycle ride in history, funneling through downtown Seattle and ending at Key Arena for the Seattle Storm’s final season home game. The City of Seattle is even going to give the ’Ride to the Arena’ a full Police and Firefighters MC escort and close 4th avenue, a historic first.
Non-riders can come out to the event to enjoy a custom bike show; raffles, prizes, awards, vendors and giveaways; discounts to the Storm’s biggest game and Seattle Tattoo Expo; and the chance to win a custom-built Seattle Storm Harley autographed by all Storm players and coaches — all in support of four organizations doing vital work in our community.
Patrick is excited that proceeds from this year’s event will help create jobs and opportunities, feed hungry kids, support youth programs, and literally save lives by funding and encouraging people to join the bone marrow registry through Puget Sound Blood Center’s Bone Marrow Program — Denice was lucky to have her sister as a perfect match, but many patients in need of a bone marrow transplant rely on unrelated donors to save their lives.
My wife is the most gracious, most amazing person I have ever known. It’s important to hear that not every story has a sad ending. We appreciate the gift that we have, and that’s why we both put this thing together.