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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. No second amendment, pro life, pro traditional marriage, reagan or trump tshirts will be sold either. And you cannot draw Mohammed even in your own notebook. And you must wear a helmet at all times while at the fair. And no lawyer jokes can be told except in the designated protest area. And next year no crucifixes, since they are uber offensive to all but Catholics. Have a nice bland day here in the Lego movie. Remember ... Everything is awesome comrades.

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  3. All these sites putting up all the crap they do making Brent Look like A Monster like he's not a good person . First off th fight actually started not because of Brent but because of one of his friends then when the fight popped off his friend ran like a coward which left Brent to fend for himself .It IS NOT a crime to defend yourself 3 of them and 1 of him . just so happened he was a better fighter. I'm Brent s wife so I know him personally and up close . He's a very caring kind loving man . He's not abusive in any way . He is a loving father and really shouldn't be where he is not for self defense . Now because of one of his stupid friends trying to show off and turning out to be nothing but a coward and leaving Brent to be jumped by 3 men not only is Brent suffering but Me his wife , his kids abd step kidshis mom and brother his family is left to live without him abd suffering in more ways then one . that man was and still is my smile ....he's the one real thing I've ever had in my life .....f@#@ You Lafayette court system . Learn to do your jobs right he maybe should have gotten that year for misdemeanor battery but that s it . not one person can stand to me and tell me if u we're in a fight facing 3 men and u just by yourself u wouldn't fight back that you wouldn't do everything u could to walk away to ur family ur kids That's what Brent is guilty of trying to defend himself against 3 men he wanted to go home tohisfamily worse then they did he just happened to be a better fighter and he got the best of th others . what would you do ? Stand there lay there and be stomped and beaten or would u give it everything u got and fight back ? I'd of done the same only I'm so smallid of probably shot or stabbed or picked up something to use as a weapon . if it was me or them I'd do everything I could to make sure I was going to live that I would make it hone to see my kids and husband . I Love You Brent Anthony Forever & Always .....Soul 1 baby

  4. Good points, although this man did have a dog in the legal fight as that it was his mother on trial ... and he a dependent. As for parking spaces, handicap spots for pregnant women sure makes sense to me ... er, I mean pregnant men or women. (Please, I meant to include pregnant men the first time, not Room 101 again, please not Room 101 again. I love BB)

  5. I have no doubt that the ADA and related laws provide that many disabilities must be addressed. The question, however, is "by whom?" Many people get dealt bad cards by life. Some are deaf. Some are blind. Some are crippled. Why is it the business of the state to "collectivize" these problems and to force those who are NOT so afflicted to pay for those who are? The fact that this litigant was a mere spectator and not a party is chilling. What happens when somebody who speaks only East Bazurkistanish wants a translator so that he can "understand" the proceedings in a case in which he has NO interest? Do I and all other taxpayers have to cough up? It would seem so. ADA should be amended to provide a simple rule: "Your handicap, YOUR problem". This would apply particularly to handicapped parking spaces, where it seems that if the "handicap" is an ingrown toenail, the government comes rushing in to assist the poor downtrodden victim. I would grant wounded vets (IED victims come to mind in particular) a pass on this.. but others? Nope.

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