Owensboro native searching for life saving donor match


by Gene Kang


Posted on February 20, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 20 at 7:01 PM

(WHAS11) -- Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts was in Louisville two years ago as the guest speaker for the Derby Festival’s “They’re Off” Luncheon. Her health created a lot of attention to the “Be the Match” program. She was fortunate and her sister was an exact match. But for one Kentucky man, battling the same disease, the new isn’t so good.

Owensboro native Chris Herrell, 39, was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) which is what Roberts suffered. He is searching for a match to save his life.

Herrell, a father of three has been married to Laurie for 15 years.

"I'm not as worried about it like my wife is because I know there will be a donor out there at some point. I have faith," Chris said.

"I do too but it's hard to see him going through something like this," Laurie said.

They live in Cincinnati with their beautiful children, Chase, Rickson and Alani, who was adopted just months before Herrell became ill.

"He's been really sick. Right now he can't leave the house. His blood cells are so low," Laurie said.

An avid athlete, Herrell is a former baseball player and marathon runner who was in perfect health.
It was during one of his runs in November that he suddenly lost his breath and knew something was wrong.

"I felt exhausted," Herrell said.

He was diagnosed with MDS which is a condition when blood cells do not reach a mature state and stay in the bone marrow. It can cause anemia, rapid bleeding and severe infection. But his positive "never give up" attitude is inspiring many including co-workers with the Cincinnati Reds where he sells tickets and his childhood friend Tim Statts in Louisville.

"He's family to me and to me I'm looking out for my brother and I'm trying to say how do I solve this problem? What can I do to be a part of the solution?" Statts said.

As of Wednesday nobody in the "Be the Match" registry is a perfect fit. However, the Herrells say with a simple cheek swab you could become a donor and possibly save Chris' life and many others with the same illness.

An estimated 12,000 people are diagnosed with MDS every year.  Despite the odds the Herrells still have hope.

"There's about 9.5 to a million on the registry which is worldwide but there is not a match," Chris said.

"They call him unique and challenging," Laurie said.

There is a “Be the Match” donor registry program on Monday March 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
It will be held at the University of Louisville Student Activities Center in the Multi-Purpose Room.                   

Check out WHAS11’s Facebook page for future “Be the Match” events in Kentuckiana.