Almost three years ago, the lives of an Eagles fan and a Seahawks fan were forever intertwined.
For Reed Salmons, a Philadelphia fan through and through, it all began when his Dickinson College lacrosse coach sent an email encouraging the team to attend an on-campus bone marrow drive. A quick cheek swab put the then-22-year-old into the Be The Match database, which keeps track of DNA submissions. But, he never expected anything more to come of it.
Salmons understood the odds of being a match were slim, so the entire process was out-of-sight, out-of-mind within a few days. But suddenly, the college senior received news he hadn't anticipated.
Salmons was a potential match for a 58-year-old man with leukemia. He had the opportunity to save a life.
"I thought that they were a bunch of telemarketers calling me because that had been happening a lot. I just kept ignoring these 800 numbers and then I got an email asking me to check my voicemail," Salmons recalled. "I listened to my voicemail and it was like, 'Please, please, please pick up the phone. We have this whole situation where you're a possible match for someone with leukemia. We'll tell you more details if you call us back.' I called them back and that's when they told me all about the potential match.
"They told me that the guy was 58, which is pretty much my father's age. I didn't know where he was at this point or who he was or anything about him except for his age and gender. But, I put myself in his kids' shoes and was thinking, 'What if someone said no to my father trying to get a donation if my dad had cancer?' That was kind of the easy tipping point for me."
Photo courtesy of Bloodworks Northwest
The process was more rushed than usual because there was a good sense that Salmons was the match needed. A few follow-up tests confirmed it and on January 20, 2014, he donated his bone marrow. Where the cells were going, Salmons still didn't know.
On the other side of the country though, Mark Tose was anxiously awaiting word in Washington. He had no information about his donor, but nurses told him the cells were coming from the East Coast – the same area where a blizzard was underway.
They didn't want him to get his hopes up if the flights were delayed, a major possibility given the circumstances. However, the cells thankfully made it to Tose despite the storm and the transplant was successful.
It would be another year until Salmons and Tose would learn more about one another. Salmons reached out first with a letter sent to Tose through their Be The Match representative. Both men knew what they wanted though, a chance to meet in person.
"They gave us the opportunity to sign a waiver with as much information as we wanted about ourselves, our identities, where we are and all that. It was pretty telling that after a year and a couple notes here and there, very limited contact because of this process, we both immediately filled out all of the stuff that they sent us to fill out. It was all optional," explained Salmons, a Wilmington, Delaware native. "A few days after that, I got a phone call on my way home and it was from a number in Seattle. At that point, I knew where he was because I looked at where he was from. It was pretty cool. The first thing I heard was, 'Reed.' Then we just hit it off immediately like old friends."
Tose shared with Salmons his journal on CaringBridge.org, which he updated throughout his fight with leukemia. It was in there that the donor learned of Tose's Seahawks fandom.
"Mark went into a short little coma as a result of the transplant," Salmons said. "It hit him pretty hard. The first thing he said was, 'Did it work?' The doctor said, 'Yes.' This was after two weeks. Then after that, he said, 'Who won the Super Bowl?' They told him the Seahawks did and he rejoiced.
"Those were the first two questions he had and that's how I found out that he was a Seahawks fan. Obviously, I already knew how I felt about football and I love the Eagles. So, I went out there and I told him that the precondition for him having my entire immune system and blood cells in him was that he has to bleed green. I held him to his word and I brought him an XXL Eagles sweatshirt, because he's like 6-7. That's how it all kind of connected there."
That bone marrow donation saved Tose's life, and he agrees that he does now bleed midnight green. Tose is back to work at Boeing and is getting a second chance thanks to Salmons, who is now a student at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.
The two will forever be connected.
"He has two teams and when they play each other, he doesn't really root for either now. It's pretty funny," Salmons said. "He always starts his emails off with, 'How my Birds doing?' or 'What's going on with my Birds?' or 'Great win by my Birds.' He's not talking about the Seahawks anymore. He's talking about the Eagles."
If you're interested in learning how to be a bone marrow donor, please visit BeTheMatch.org for more information.