On Monday Mt. Juliet city judge, attorney, wife and mom of four young boys Carolyn Christoffersen got the second most astounding phone call of her life.
The first phone call that could potentially change her life, and another young life, came in January. Monday's call from Be The Match out of Chattanooga may have completed a circle of life.
"Yes, I got the first shocking phone call back in January," Christoffersen said. "And Monday's was indescribable, and directly related to January's."
It all actually began 17 years ago when, as a law student, Christoffersen regularly gave blood. Out of the blue in January she got a call that informed her she was a tissue match for a 2-year-old little boy dying of a deadly form of anemia. She later learned he lives in Brazil.
Christoffersen said it was just something she did while in law school in Mississippi. She'd go to the local blood bank.
"I thought it was the right thing to do," she said of her blood donation her senior year in law school. "I was never afraid of needles."
Apparently, even after 17 years, her tissue type remained recorded and doctors from all over the world scour records to find live-saving matches for bone marrow, kidneys and other organs for transplants.
Even while a mother of four young boys, Christoffersen didn't hesitate and eagerly went to Vanderbilt the end of January for the next step in the process. They drew blood and conducted numerous tests to see if she could be the donor for the little boy. She was told this was his last resort.
His anemia essential does not allow his body to make enough white and red blood cells. If the transplant is approved with Christoffersen or another donor, in layman's terms, doctors will kill off the toddler's blood cells and replace them with the donor's. So, essentially, Christoffersen's DNA will take over the little boy if the transplant takes place.
Christoffersen said as days and even two months went by she lost "hope" that she was a final match.
"I didn't hear anything and so much time had passed, I had just assumed I wasn't the one and somewhat gave up hope," she said Tuesday.
She said she was shocked at Monday's phone call. The woman from Be the Match told her, indeed, she was the "suitable match."
However, she was also told the little boy, for what could be a variety of reasons, is not quite ready for the bone marrow transplant.
"She wouldn't say exactly, but I think it might have something to do with an insurance snag, or maybe his little immune system isn't ready for the donation," Christoffersen said. "When or if he's ready, I will go to Vanderbilt and they will do outpatient surgery."
This will entail putting a needle into Christoffersen's hip and extracting the
life-saving bone marrow and then transporting it to Brazil for the little boy. And, yes, there are risks all the way around, but this mom said for her it's a prudent risk.
"I have the potential to save a life," she said. "A needle in my hip is nothing to me. It will cost me some time and just a little bit of pain. It will be worth it and I truly hope the little boy gets strong enough for this to happen."
Can she change her mind?
"Yes, I could, but there no way I ever would," she said. "I'm ready. I'm excited, for the opportunity. It's an amazing feeling to have the opportunity to bless someone."
Christoffersen knows generally for tissue match tests, four people are chosen to test and that means there's a 25 percent change she could be chosen. But, she was told generally males are typically chosen to be the donors because, she assumes, doctors would prefer not to do the procedure on young women of child bearing age.
"So, that makes me believe there are not many matches," she said. "And, the doctor chose me."
And, she knows, especially with the knowledge the little boy is too sick at this present moment to withstand the transplant, there's a chance it may never happen. Is she emotionally prepared to learn the little boy died before she could potentially save his life?
"I am prepared for everything," she said. "I have always felt this is what I'm supposed to do. We've been praying ever since that first phone call. I realize I'm not in control. I'm a Christian and I believe God created in me something that could maybe save a life."
Christoffersen completed her first ever 5K run this weekend for her son's school Elzie Patton Elementary.
"I know, 3.1 miles doesn't seem like much to most people, but for a non-runner it was!"
She's also up before dawn every morning of late to work out at Planet Fitness. Is it because deep in her soul she wants her body to be as strong as possible for a possible future donation of bone marrow?
"Well," she laughed. "Probably, but it also might be related to the fact my 20 year school reunion is coming up quickly!"
On a serious note, she now waits for that third pivotal phone call that will give her the go-ahead to be the sole provider of a second chance at life for a little boy so far away in Brazil.