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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. I will continue to pray that God keeps giving you the strength and courage to keep fighting for what is right and just so you are aware, you are an inspiration to those that are feeling weak and helpless as they are trying to figure out why evil keeps winning. God Bless.....

  2. Some are above the law in Indiana. Some lined up with Lodges have controlled power in the state since the 1920s when the Klan ruled Indiana. Consider the comments at this post and note the international h.q. in Indianapolis. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/human-trafficking-rising-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/42468. Brave journalists need to take this child torturing, above the law and antimarriage cult on just like The Globe courageously took on Cardinal Law. Are there any brave Hoosier journalists?

  3. I am nearing 66 years old..... I have no interest in contacting anyone. All I need to have is a nationality....a REAL Birthday...... the place U was born...... my soul will never be at peace. I have lived my life without identity.... if anyone can help me please contact me.

  4. This is the dissent discussed in the comment below. See comments on that story for an amazing discussion of likely judicial corruption of some kind, the rejection of the rule of law at the very least. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/justices-deny-transfer-to-child-custody-case/PARAMS/article/42774#comment

  5. That means much to me, thank you. My own communion, to which I came in my 30's from a protestant evangelical background, refuses to so affirm me, the Bishop's courtiers all saying, when it matters, that they defer to the state, and trust that the state would not be wrong as to me. (LIttle did I know that is the most common modernist catholic position on the state -- at least when the state acts consistent with the philosophy of the democrat party). I asked my RCC pastor to stand with me before the Examiners after they demanded that I disavow God's law on the record .... he refused, saying the Bishop would not allow it. I filed all of my file in the open in federal court so the Bishop's men could see what had been done ... they refused to look. (But the 7th Cir and federal judge Theresa Springmann gave me the honor of admission after so reading, even though ISC had denied me, rendering me a very rare bird). Such affirmation from a fellow believer as you have done here has been rare for me, and that dearth of solidarity, and the economic pain visited upon my wife and five children, have been the hardest part of the struggle. They did indeed banish me, for life, and so, in substance did the the Diocese, which treated me like a pariah, but thanks to this ezine ... and this is simply amazing to me .... because of this ezine I am not silenced. This ezine allowing us to speak to the corruption that the former chief "justice" left behind, yet embedded in his systems when he retired ... the openness to discuss that corruption (like that revealed in the recent whistleblowing dissent by courageous Justice David and fresh breath of air Chief Justice Rush,) is a great example of the First Amendment at work. I will not be silenced as long as this tree falling in the wood can be heard. The Hoosier Judiciary has deep seated problems, generational corruption, ideological corruption. Many cases demonstrate this. It must be spotlighted. The corrupted system has no hold on me now, none. I have survived their best shots. It is now my time to not be silent. To the Glory of God, and for the good of man's law. (It almost always works that way as to the true law, as I explained the bar examiners -- who refused to follow even their own statutory law and violated core organic law when banishing me for life -- actually revealing themselves to be lawless.)

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