This holiday season, a Bettendorf woman hopes she'll win the chance to finally thank the man whose bone marrow donation saved her life.
Lori McFate is one of five finalists in the Angel MedFlight Holiday Homecoming contest. The worldwide air ambulance wants to unite some lucky people this Christmas season, and McFate submitted an essay explaining why she'd love MedFlight to bring her donor, Michael Henkel, from Germany to Bettendorf.
"Without Michael I would not be here. I had T-cell Lymphoma, a very rare type, had done about five years of chemo and radiation, and at that point, it was critical to find a match," said McFate.
In 2006, McFate was desperate for a bone marrow donor.
"Not being able to find a match, you really feel like you're at a dead end," she said.
When Henkel entered the international donor registry, he was the only match for McFate. Doctors told McFate she had only a 50-50 chance of surviving the transplant, but Henkel's selfless gift paid off.
Since the transplant, McFate has been unstoppable -- working full-time for the Department of Defense in Detroit, completing Abrams Tank Commander Training, obtaining her motorcycle license, and finishing a half-marathon.
The single mom says the most important blessing, though, has been watching her 18-year-old son, Matthew, grow up.
"He's a good student, he's an amazing actor... And being his mom, being around for the last seven years has been critical," said McFate.
McFate, though, has never met or even spoken to Michael Henkel. For the past five years, McFate has sent only emails and Facebook messages to the man whose DNA she now shares.
She hopes this contest will give her the chance to give Henkel and his family a long-overdue 'thank you.'
"I don't know what I could offer this man. What do you offer a man who has saved your life? There's nothing I have that could say, 'thank you,' more than bringing him here," said McFate. "Right up there with my faith and my family is Michael Henkel."
Voting in the online poll is open until December 20. To see all of the finalists’ essays and vote in the poll, click here.