Once we arrived, we were greeted by someone from Duke University Medical Center where I was a patient from a very young age. We were taken to meet another family while we waited on the governor and that is where I met Rachel along with her mom, dad and little brother. Rachel was 4 years old, sitting in her stroller with a mask on. Before I could figure out who she was, her family wanted to know all about me. They knew a little of my story from Dr. Kurtzberg, who was both mine and Rachel's doctor and a pioneer in the cord blood field. Dr. Kurtzberg had told Rachel that she was going to meet the first person in the world to have a cord blood transplant. When Rachel's mom, Rebecca, introduced me to her, she called me Mr. Matt and every time she said that, Rachel would have the biggest grin on her face. Even from behind the mask, I could tell she was beaming and had the biggest, most beautiful smile. As I bent down to talk to her, the excitement became more real and everyone around her could tell how happy she was.
I learned that Rachel had her transplant in November of 2007 for Blackfan Diamond Anemia but had struggled with complications afterwards. The more we spoke, the more touched I was that I was able to meet such a loving family that had done what my parents were brave enough to do all those years ago. Rachel inspires me every time I think about her and her beautiful smile and out of that Mr. Matt was born.
Unfortunately, a few weeks after I met her, Rachel went back into the hospital with complications from her transplant and was there until her passing on November 7, 2009. Her parents created the Rachel Lynn Smith Foundation to provide assistance to other families away from home while their children are receiving treatment which you can learn more about here.
I wish I had gotten another chance to spend time with her but I will never forget that special day that Mr. Matt made her smile.