- Associated Press - Saturday, August 2, 2014

MYERSVILLE, Md. (AP) - A chance match between genetic material turned international strangers into friends, one saving the other’s life.

“I am the saved life,” said Andrea Linke, of Bonn, Germany.

Linke introduced herself in the Myersville home of Linda DeLauder. DeLauder’s bone marrow was what Linke needed after she was diagnosed in 2001 with a blood cancer called chronic myelogenous leukemia.

The transplant was performed 12 years ago. Eight years later, through persistence, Linke found DeLauder and formed a friendship.

Linke, her husband and teenage daughters spent most of this week with DeLauder and her husband, Bill Steigelmann.

“One great thing is our husbands get along so well,” DeLauder said.

Outdoors enthusiasts, they hiked in Cunningham Falls State Park, visited Frederick and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and attended a baseball game. They took the girls to outlet malls, and they came home with bags full of bargains that may require an extra suitcase, their father said.

Linke looks forward to a long life now and wants to visit the Appalachian Trail sometime. DeLauder said when it is Linke’s next turn to visit, the trip should be out West.

Their story has unfolded from a simple choice that DeLauder, 65, and Linke, 49, urge other people to make: Register to be an organ donor. DeLauder and her sister decided to get on a donor registry after seeing a story in The Frederick News-Post some 15 years ago, she said.

“We both did it, never, ever expecting a call,” DeLauder said.

Nothing happened for the first few years, except that the registry confirmed DeLauder was still willing to be considered. In about July 2002, a call came that DeLauder might be a match for someone in need.

“Whoa, cool!” DeLauder recalled thinking. “My sister was so jealous.”

Further questions from the registry and a few medical tests followed.

At any point up to the last moment, the donor may back out, DeLauder said. That was never her thought, but she wants others to know the freedom people on the registry have.

Before going the transplant route, Linke had enrolled in trials of cutting-edge pharmaceuticals developed in the United States.

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