Louisville natives return home after life-saving cross-country t - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville natives return home after life-saving cross-country trip

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Two sisters and their best friend, all from Louisville, have had to make some sacrifices.

They've lived off of gas station food, haven't had a bed to sleep in and they've gone without a bathroom of their own. It was all worth it, though, as they traveled the country to sign up bone marrow donors.

“I mean, it was insane,” Sam Kimura said.

The women spent one year going from state to state, hoping to save as many lives as possible.

“It feels surreal that it happene," Sam said. "It came and went really quickly."

Sisters Sam and Alex Kimura along with their best friend, Taylor Shorten, started Sharing America's Marrow. They visited hundreds of college campuses and businesses and swabbed people to become bone marrow donors.

“It was definitely the hardest year of our lives, but also the most rewarding and the most challenging,” Sam said.

The young women basically lived out of a van. Although the trip began last January, the mission started back in 2010 when Sam was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia. The rare disease stops her body from making bone marrow. So while they were busy trying to find a match for Sam, they also hoped to help hundreds more.

“We did sign up over 18,000 potential donors and found 150 for potential matches for patients,” Alex Kimura said.

“Free candy over here! Free life-saving! Everything's free, everything's easy,” Sam would say on college campuses encouraging people to sign up as a donor.

Along the way, they did make time for a little fun. They got tattoos in Milwaukee. Sam points to the row of numbers on her arm.

“That's my HLA type, and that's how people match, and that’s why it's so hard for people to find matches ... because it's very specific,” Sam said.

They also climbed Angels Landing in Zion National Park in Utah.

“To make it to the top ... and it just feels like we conquered something ... it was just kind of a moment that captured the whole year - facing your fears, doing something big and doing it together,” Alex said.

They even re-connected with one of the first people they swabbed, who donated his bone marrow to a match.

“He told us his story and was like 'yeah, I signed up with you guys and wouldn't have donated if it wasn't for the drive you had at my college,'” Sam said.

Down the road, they hope to meet some of the people they've helped.

“Hopefully one day that can happen. That would be so cool,” Taylor Shorten said.

Sharing America's Marrow is hosting a welcome home party at Against the Grain on Jan. 12, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The women will share their experiences from their travels.

A silent auction will raise money to keep registering people as donors. Swabbing will be taking place at the event. If you would like to become a donor but cannot make it to the event, Sharing America’s Marrow will send you a swabbing kit in the mail. Then all you have to do is mail it back.

For more details, you can visit the Sharing America’s Marrow website.


Louisville natives embark on cross country mission for bone marrow donors

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