Blood Brothers

Aug 26, 2019

It was a little over two weeks ago that we paraded all five boys into the outpatient lab at Primary Children's Hospital. Aaron was there for moral support. The other four needed to have a quick blood draw to determine if any of them were a bone marrow match for Aaron.

Maxwell was cool and calm: he had the facts; he knew what he needed to do. Bradley was optimistically confident; he volunteered to go first until the phlebotomist began pulling out needles. Clark was humming with anxiety; he asked the same questions over and over and over again. Ian was blissfully unaware of anything; for him, this was just a jaunty excursion.

A few days before, we showed the boys the classic BYU film about the little girl giving her blood for her brother. Although not exactly the same scenario, it seemed to do the trick in inspiring them all to greatness and brotherhood.

Mike and I actually debated for quite a bit about what to do with Ian. He is extremely contrary right now, even about the things he likes to do. Additionally, his distrust of doctors escalated when he broke his arm this summer. We couldn't decide if it would be better for him to go first before he knew what was happening or second after watching one of his older brothers. We even thought it might be easier to just take him in at a separate time. But in the end, we decided this needed to be a unified effort.

Maxwell paved the way. He sat in the chair, played a game on the iPad, and acted like this was the kind of thing he did every day.

What happened next can only be called a miracle. I have thought about it again and again, and there is absolutely no other explanation for it. Following Max, Ian climbed up into Mike's lap. Mike popped a sucker into his mouth and pulled up a show for him to watch. I realize that sugar and media have a big pull on my kids, but not that big. Especially not for the two-year-old. From that moment on, it was as if the phlebotomist was not in the room.

She took Ian's arm and tied it tightly. Mike and I watched Ian warily. She cleaned Ian's arm. Mike and I held our breath. She went in for the poke. Mike and I tensed. And Ian did not move a muscle. He did not flinch. He did not cry. All I could do was gape. It was so unlike what I was imagining that I was just kind of shocked. And delighted. Very, very delighted.

The other two draws were as undramatic as the first two. The phlebotomist packed up her things and left with the parting comment that that was about as easy as they come.

No one really told us how long to expect the results to take, but a little digging online said one to two weeks.

Those were long days.

But hope is a powerful force. It pulled me along and kept me safely tethered. I dreaded the possibility of having that cord snapped and feeling powerless once more.

At the end of last week, my phone rang, and when I saw the hospital's number, I silenced it. I admit it, I did. And then I kicked myself because I really did want to know, but the threat of bad news loomed over me, dark and foreboding. (The phone call ended up just being a return call, and the only thing the doctor said was that most of Aaron's tests were back and that she would see us on Tuesday to discuss a plan.)

I sometimes struggled to know what to pray for during those days of waiting. My heart yearned to pray for the most obvious thing: a bone marrow match for Aaron. But my practical side argued that the boys' bone marrow already was what it was, and my prayers weren't going to change it.

One day I was listening to a talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. (He is a favorite of mine. In fact, that is where my Maxwell's name comes from.) The talk was called "Encircled in the Arms of His Love." As I listened, my anxious heart was soothed. And then, these words suddenly caught my attention and stood out in bright relief against everything else:
Recall the new star that announced the birth at Bethlehem? It was in its precise orbit long before it so shone. We are likewise placed in human orbits to illuminate. Divine correlation functions not only in the cosmos but on this planet, too.
I suddenly had the thought: If God can put a star into orbit long before He needs it, then He can give one of my sons the right type of bone marrow long before Aaron is diagnosed with aplastic anemia. 

I realized that it wasn't so much a matter of changing what was already there as acknowledging that God's knowledge was perfect and that if He wanted Aaron to have a match, then He would have already provided a way. And if His way was not a match, then that meant there would be another way.

So my prayers took on a slightly different tone. I still prayed for a match because that is what I wanted. And from my limited view, that seemed like the best possibility for Aaron. But I guess my perspective opened up just a little bit more. I realized that even though everything was very much present and in-the-moment for me, that didn't mean that all of this was coming as a surprise to Heavenly Father. And that was comforting to me.

(But that didn't mean I didn't sometimes let fear dictate whether or not I was going to answer the phone . . . )

So today, I called the clinic to find out what time Aaron's next appointment was scheduled for. The receptionist told me, "It looks like he's scheduled to meet with the bone marrow transplant team at 12:00, and then he'll see the hematologist at 3:00."

I hung up. But my mind wouldn't let go of "bone marrow transplant team." I thought, He said "bone marrow transplant team." Why would we be meeting with the bone marrow transplant team if we didn't have a bone marrow match?

Could that mean . . . ?

Then a couple of hours later, I missed a phone call (totally by accident this time, I promise), and when I listened to the message, the person on the other end said they wanted to make sure Aaron was on the bone marrow schedule with his brother, Maxwell. My heart did a little leap.

I immediately called Mike, and he called the clinic. As the coordinator was going on about what time to come in and what to expect, Mike stopped her and asked, "Does this mean Maxwell is a match?" And she said, "Oh I'm sorry, I thought you knew. Yes, Maxwell is a perfect match."

A perfect match.

The star of Bethlehem and Maxwell's bone marrow. Not so different as one might think.

Mike and I were giddy, absolutely giddy, for the rest of the day. We thought Max and the other boys should be the first to know, so we didn't tell anyone. But we kept calling each other, making plans for how to tell them, and just generally rejoicing at the news.

Tonight we gave each of the four boys a gift. We wanted to thank them for being willing to be Aaron's donor. Then we gave Aaron a wrapped present. We told him that we had just found out that one of his brothers was a match for him. His gift would match that of his donor's.

The boys sat with bated breath, their eyes riveted on the present. And when he pulled it out, Maxwell recognized it as being a pair to his own, and he unceremoniously said, "Dang it!"

But then he bounced around the house for the rest of the night, as hyper as I've ever seen him. I'm sure it was partly due to nerves and fears, but there seemed to be this undercurrent of excitement and joy.

And Aaron? I wanted him to exclaim or cry or jump up and down. But he didn't. He just gave Maxwell a big hug and then went outside to play.

But tonight I found this photo of the day we brought baby Maxwell home from the hospital and Aaron met him for the first time.

That smile. That crushing squeeze.

And I have to wonder, Did you two have any idea of the unbreakable bond you would one day have?


  1. This is so beautifully written and I think, as you said the boys may have known before that picture was taken that they would have such an amazing bond that you may have had a chance to think this through in heaven so that people like me can learn from you wisdom. Thank you for sharing your miracle with all of us! Prayers are answered! Miracles are all around! Please let me know if I can help in any way. I know you have a lot of help, but we would love to be a part of it in any way possible if needs be.

  2. I love this post and I'm so happy about the match. I love quote by Elder Maxwell. Thank you so much for writing this!

  3. Make me cry, why don'tcha! ♥️ What wonderful news! And that last picture!
    Elder Maxwell's quote also reminded me of Brook P Hale's conference talk in April.

  4. Sweet miracle, sweet quote, sweet story, sweet brothers 💙💙

  5. Beautifully written and such wonderful news. You are in our prayers.

  6. Thank you for sharing your miracle with us. This is so beautiful, and a wonderful reminder that God is in ALL the details...and is aware of them all much sooner than we are. Praying for you guys!

  7. Wow, I literally have tears in my eyes.

  8. I'm so happy to hear that Maxwell is a match. Your post brought tears to my eyes, too. I will also say that you are a fine writer - building suspense before the big reveal. I couldn't stop reading. But really, I'm just so happy for your positive news!

  9. I’m crying- tears of joy and gratitude for your sweet Aaron, Maxwell and all of you. You are a beautiful writer. God is goodness, And being that His time is past, present, and future He is not surprised, as you said, at the events of our lives, and as we trust Him he guides us through. Such a wonderful blessing. Blood brothers indeed.

  10. Oh Amy. How wonderful! I'm sure I'm not alone as tears flow down my cheeks after reading this. I too love Elder Maxwell. In his autobiography he talks about (paraphrased) how sometimes the only reason we go through totals is so we can empathize with others. as I have pondered this through my life, I have come to understand how that is what this life is about.bonly He knows perfectly what we are going through...He knows it all. But if we can ensure pain, trials, miracles...and be there for someone else because we have also experienced that, I can't think of anything more christ-like. Your whole family, but especially Aaron and Maxwell will be able to empathize with others in a way that not many will be able to. What a blessing. Oh how I love you and your family. I will continue to pray that everything goes smoothly.

  11. Well this is just about the most beautifully written blog post ever! I hope you will continue to record and share the many miracles that will undoubtedly continue to unfold on this journey. Oh, this is such wonderful news! I still get weepy whenever I think about it.

  12. GAH!! My mom, Jane McBride, keeps sharing your updates with our family. I should know better than to read them at work. I'm so happy for your sweet family and beautiful boys. Thank you for sharing your journey and reminding us that it's okay to have faith but still be scared.

  13. I'm so glad that Aaron has a match, and that your family is so generous with each other!

  14. Beautiful. I will keep the prayers coming!

  15. Yaaaaay! I'm so relieved! Heaven bless your family!!!

  16. Beautifully written Amy. I'm so happy to hear the wonderful news. -Beth Inouye

  17. Beautiful post and the best news ever.


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