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Lawyer pays his 'civic rent' through donation

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A 55-year-old man thousands of miles away should soon be walking around with the bone marrow of an Indiana family law attorney.

becker Attorney Carl Becker with Newton Becker Bouwkamp Pendoski in Indianapolis is donating his peripheral blood stem cells, which are a match for a 55-year-old man outside the United States with acute myeloid leukemia. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Indianapolis lawyer Carl Becker is donating marrow through a blood stem cell donation, a non-surgical outpatient procedure that will occur about four years after he registered to be a donor. The boutique law firm partner is taking time out of his practice to not only make that personal donation, but, hopefully, encourage his colleagues in the legal community to sign up to do the same at a time when the need for more donors is so great.

“I was taught and grew up believing there’s a need for compassion and kindness in everything you do,” said Becker, a partner at Indianapolis firm Newton Becker Bouwkamp Pendoski and the son of a southern Illinois state Circuit judge. “Just like being a family law lawyer where you can really see the impact of your practice on real people, this is about people being in the worst times of their life and just finding someone who can help them.”

Admitted to practice in Indiana in 1991, Becker began his career practicing family law at what is now Krieg DeVault in Indianapolis. He founded the legal department for Union Acceptance Corp. in the mid-1990s, working as an in-house attorney for several years before forming his own boutique firm in 2002 with some former colleagues. Now, he spends most of his time on family law but also delves into some financial and commercial work.

But Becker’s background in banking and the law had nothing to do with his decision to register as a potential donor, he said. Rather, it was a friend from church who was hosting a blood drive and asked him to get involved. He agreed, in large part because of values his parents instilled and the type of behavior he’s tried to maintain during his 20 years of practicing law.

Every year like clockwork, he received his registration card asking him to confirm his contact information and provide any necessary updates. He filled it out, not expecting anything. Some potential donors never get called, and he knows of one man who’s been listed for 16 years without any match. So he didn’t expect his phone to ring.

But in early May, it did.

“One day, I get a call out of the blue saying there’s a match for a 55-year-old man with acute myeloid leukemia,” Becker said. “All I know is that he’s not in this country, so my blood stem cells are heading for another country through this open-borders process.”

Before this, Becker said he wasn’t familiar with any type of cancer and specifically not AML, which is one of the most common forms of leukemia among adults. It starts inside the soft bone marrow tissue that helps form blood cells, and the cancer grows from those cells that would normally turn into white blood cells.

More than 9 million donors are listed on the Be the Match Registry of the National Marrow Donor Program, but most are never called to donate. Tissue matches must be so close that some patients who desperately need blood cell transplants do not receive them, according to Cathy Loeser, manager of the Indiana Blood Center’s marrow donor program. Those are always various serious cases, she said.

“More lives could be saved if more people would just register,” Loeser added.

Becker said he could have been chosen to donate blood or bone marrow, and his recipient needed his peripheral blood stem cells. That non-surgical outpatient procedure is used 76 percent of the time, statistics show, and a person’s marrow is removed through a surgical procedure at a hospital in the remaining 24 percent of cases.

The first step of the process begins Aug. 21, when Becker goes in for the first of a series of four shots to help his stem cells multiply for harvesting. He describes the shots being like “fertilizer for your bone marrow.” Over the next several days he will receive the remaining shots before the harvesting procedure occurs Aug. 25.

Describing the process as he understands it, Becker says his blood will be drawn from one arm, spun around in an apheresis machine three or four times to separate out the blood-forming stem cells, and then transferred back into his body.

His stem cells will then be flown outside the country to the recipient’s hospital.

Becker doesn’t know who the man is or where he lives — only that just prior to the donation, all of the man’s stem cells will need to be killed off by chemotherapy and radiation.

“My transplanted cells will become his, and there will be this guy walking around in Germany or somewhere with an Indiana family law attorney’s white blood cells,” Becker said.

During those four days of getting the shots, Becker says he might feel some discomfort or possibly like he has the flu. The total recovery could be as quick as a day, he said. He knows there are risks, like the one-in-3,000 odds that some unexpected complication could materialize. But Becker isn’t worried.

“You’re more at risk of something happening just by getting into a car,” he said. “This isn’t impacting my business, and I’ve just had to get a couple continuances. With just a lost day here or there, and a total 25 or 20 billable hours in exchange, it’s not even comparable in exchange for a guy somewhere being able to kick around with his kids cancer-free for another 20 years.”

Aside from the stem cell donation, Becker is also donating his blood platelets regularly – something that can be done as many as 24 times a year. Platelets have a shelf-life of five days before transfusion is necessary.

Becker hopes that more lawyers volunteer as potential donors and that they will use their clout in the legal community to spread the word about the need.

“We have a duty as business people or successful attorneys to pay our civic rent,” he said. “There’s an obligation to society to give back.”•

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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