Penn State Behrend student and Kentucky teen form friendship after bone marrow donation
ERIE, P.A (WICU-WSEE/CW) A Skype call in early February of 2018 was the moment 15-year old Fort Knox, Kentucky native Matthew Walker and Penn State Behrend student Billy Santoro first saw each others faces.
Matthew may have been a little shy, but technically speaking, these two had already become a part of each other’s lives.
And it started in 2017, when Billy, who is no stranger to donating, went to get a swab on his cheek. This time, he wanted to be a bone marrow donor. So, after his swab, he waited, and waited, and waited.
"Just after Christmas, I got the phone call right away." Santoro said
It was a call to say he had a match for donation, something that is not always a given, as only one of every 430 donors matches with a recipient.
"At the time, a 13-year old boy." said Santoro
The 13-year-old was Matthew, who, at the time, was coming off a stint with leukemia, a cancer which he had beaten, but which had just recently relapsed in his body and required him to find a donor.
And when he did, he was excited, but he wanted to know who it was that giving him this chance.
“They could be anybody, anywhere we didn't know if we'd be able to meet him or not." Walker said
While he'd have to wait for that opportunity, the transfusion, which took place in February, was a success.
All that was left, was to meet his donor, and a short time later, the two would get their chance, during the skype call.
Since then, the two have actually met in person, with Billy visiting Matt in Kentucky for a cancer function, the two had their heads shaved at the same time. Matt also paid Billy a visit in his home state of New Jersey.
"He's my buddy, we're blood brothers.” Santoro said
"He’s literally my brother now, their family is now our family.” Walker said
And through their new-found family, they also found the importance of donating.
"You have the opportunity not to save one life, but to save many lives." Santoro said
Santoro says the donation process is virtually painless and with insurance, your donation is free of charge.
"The big accomplishment from that is that I’m still here today." Walker said
On Santoro’s forearm are two tattoos, one reading “blood brothers” and another, just below his elbow, which reads “Matt.”
Matthew tells us in February, he’ll be coming to Erie for the first time, as he'll be walking with Billy as part of Behrend's Relay for Life event.
Santoro is raising money for his walk in February, to donate, click here.