He Gave Me My Life

That's how Gerard Best, whom everyone calls Jerry, describes his relationship with a man he knows in his bones yet has never met.

Focus article photo

Gerry Best (left) and Kevin Ireland (right).

Kevin Ireland donated the bone marrow that physicians at Norris Cotton Cancer Center's Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program infused into Jerry's blood to help force his leukemia into remission. Two years after the successful transplantation and 12 years following his diagnosis, Jerry is a happy, active grandfather of seven who lives in Claremont, NH.

It was a remarkable journey and partnership for both men. Jerry's father died of leukemia, and Jerry worried that he too might not live to see the important events in his grandchildren's lives. Kevin, a young father, was persuaded to become a bone marrow donor by his college lacrosse coach, but it wasn't until seven years later that he was matched with Jerry. "I have two brothers and they didn't even come close to matching me, but Kevin was a perfect match," comments Jerry, a trace of wonder still in his voice. Kevin still takes pride in being a donor. "Besides marrying my wife, this is the best thing I ever did in my life," he says. Norris Cotton Cancer Center's Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program has information for potential donors about the process and how to sign up for a donor registry. Interested donors can also contact the National Marrow Donor Program at

Jerry and Kevin have spoken a few times on the phone, and they were both interviewed by phone by WTPL radio host Jack Heath on his program "New Hampshire Today." Soon the patient and the donor will meet face to face for the first time—as rivals. Jerry, as a New Hampshire resident, roots for the Boston Red Sox. Kevin lives in Connecticut and is a Yankee fan. Heath—who as a boy lost his own father to leukemia—and the Red Sox are arranging for Jerry and Kevin to meet at Fenway Park before a future Red Sox-Yankees game. "I guess I've got Yankee blood in me now," laughs Jerry, "but I'm still for the Red Sox."

July 20, 2010