Pastor saves man by donating marrow

Published 7:54 am Monday, June 24, 2013

One local pastor recently proved that actions will always speak louder than words.

When David Saliba, pastor of Greenville’s First United Methodist Church, registered into the National Marrow Donor Program as a student of Emory University, he never thought that he would have the opportunity to save a stranger’s life.

It is an opportunity that is bestowed among a select few—the odds of being a match within the registry are astronomically low.

Email newsletter signup

Yet seven years and a cheek swab later, Saliba received the call that he was a potential match, and it was never once a question of how to proceed.

“I talked to my wife, Elizabeth, about it and we knew immediately that we would never pass up the opportunity to give something I don’t need in order to save someone’s life,” Saliba said.

“It was a challenge for our loved ones because whenever you undergo medical procedures, there are always risks.  But everyone knows us well enough to know that we want to do whatever we can to help other people find a more full life in this world, whether that’s through our actions, having a conversation with them or giving someone bone marrow.”

All Saliba knows of the bone marrow recipient is that he is a man with a rare form of cancer of the blood, but it was enough information to act upon.

After several blood tests conducted at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital, it was determined that Saliba was a perfect match.

Once that was determined, he and his wife flew to Washington D.C. for a six-day stay at Georgetown University Hospital, where the main operations would be performed.

In preparation for the procedures, Saliba took chemotherapy drugs for five days, which caused fatigue, back and bone pains for roughly a week.

The actual procedure involved apheresis, an eight-hour process in which the required blood and stem cells would be retrieved from the body and then immediately replaced.

Despite its intimidating nature, Saliba said that the potential to save someone’s life far outweighed the pain involved in the process.

“I’ve already forgotten about the pain, and all I know now is that someone in the world, who I may or may not ever meet, is alive because of the six days that I was at Georgetown Hospital,” Saliba said.

“The memory of the pain is long gone, but the memory of knowing I helped someone have a chance to fight cancer and win will live with me forever.”

In 11 months, Saliba will have an opportunity to meet the man who received his bone marrow.

And although the transplant isn’t guaranteed to take effect within the recipient’s body, Saliba and the entire First United Methodist Church congregation are praying that his body will accept the stem cells so that he might be granted a normal lifespan.

For more information on how to register into the National Marrow Donor Program and potentially save a life, visit