Tag Archive | "miracle"

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Deutschland files: Miracles, matches and our mission to save more lives on our #JennStrongGermanyHero tour

Posted on 08 September 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

This blog was written because so many of you wanted to read more or know more about our #JennStrongGermanyHero journey to Deutschland – a memorable trip to meet the young man who saved my wife’s life twice on the bone marrow registry.

We must admit, it was as “unique” of a meeting as we could’ve ever imagined.

His name is Niels Domogalla and, as we’ve now learned, he’s quite a young man. We are welcoming him to Baltimore on Nov. 12th for his 24th birthday to honor him and throw a party to celebrate his gift of life to Jenn. We spent three days with him and his family in several towns in Germany last week and we were thrilled to have beer, chat and laugh with a real “hero” in every sense of the word.

The video of Jenn meeting Niels somehow got viral over the weekend and more than 200,000 people have seen it since last Friday morning when I posted it from the DKMS headquarters in Cologne.

I can’t watch it and not cry but I still watched it every night in Europe and saw all of your comments. I sat in that hospital for 153 nights and watched her battle death with every ounce of energy so that she could “thank” him. When she was diagnosed the second time last September, she thought she had let him down.

We had communicated with him via Facebook messenger literally a few thousand times since June 30th when we found him. So, part of the “awkward” simply didn’t exist. That said, both were insistent over the eight weeks we conversed with him that they would avoid Skype or a phone chat. Clearly, he’s seen all of the videos and pictures and stories of our journey. He’s seen all of our work swabbing, the MLB 30-30 Tour and all of the anguish of her fight for her life. Over the eight weeks, he was very inquisitive about our story and much of it is public record – so we haven’t had to tell him most of the gruesome parts. He can see it.

About 72 hours before we got on the plane for Deutschland I realized that the German national soccer team was hosting Finland in a town to the west, near the Dutch border in Moechengladbach. The game was a friendly and tickets were readily available for $45. But it turned out to be the final match for German legend Bastille Schweinsteiger and it was only an hour drive.

(I’m not a speed junky but there is something very appealing about driving 95 miles per hour and I busted me some 165 kpm on the autobahn rolling toward Dusseldorf on Wednesday night at sunset.)

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The game was awesome. He loved it. And, if you read his letter, you know he loves the NBA and the NFL. We spent two hours on the square of Dom Cathedral in Cologne talking about 4-3 defenses and the use of nickel and dime packages. I used 11 beer coasters to show him various sub packages and offensive and defensive strategies used in the NFL. We also drank a lot of

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After 25 years of writing about “heroes” #JennStrong and I finally get to meet a real one on Wednesday in Germany

Posted on 28 August 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve been hearing about heroes in sports since approximately 1973. I’ve been writing and talking about sports since 1984 and every season a new “hero” comes along in every sport, in every city where championships are won and modern parades are held.

Today I will ask a pair of questions with some “deep thoughts” for the day:

What is a hero?

And what do you say to them when you finally meet one?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’m going to write (and say) about my wife meeting the man who has (twice) selflessly saved her life via the bone marrow registry.

We’ve also talked about it on the radio this week. The (then) 21-year old man in Germany who twice saved my wife’s life asked the (very Freudian) question two summers ago when he donated bone marrow to keep her alive.

If you haven’t read his letter to her from 24 months ago, please read it. I called it the greatest letter ever written and I’ll stand by that.

You’ve probably seen some aspect of the fight of Jennifer Ford Aparicio, whom I married 13 years ago on a beach in Jamaica.

You’re probably reading this because you’ve witnessed her courageous battle for her life.

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Maybe you’ve seen a bald picture of her smiling? Or perhaps a picture of our beloved cat, Kitty, licking her face when she weighed 90 pounds? Maybe you’re a childhood friend of ours through Dundalk or Manchester, New Hampshire, or perhaps we’ve collected you on our journey in life.

Through two battles with leukemia, Jennifer Ford Aparicio has spent 153 nights in a hospital bed, surrounded by a ghetto in East Baltimore, wondering if she was going to see the next sunrise.

Vomit. Blood. Tears. Pain. Agony. Fear. Horrific hospital food. Incredibly brilliant doctors. Nurses with empathy and compassion that goes beyond words. And modern medicine that has miraculously kept her alive through two heinous battles.

My wife has stared down death on the absolute end of the plank and persevered. She is lucky. She is strong. She is brave. She is incredible. She is grateful.

I am simply a witness writing about the greatest “comeback” I can possibly imagine.

#JennStrong has been back to work as a network engineer for almost 90 days and fighting with her insurance company (I routinely call them “heartless, profiteering, corporate pieces of shit” but you can call them Met Life) for six months. She has been dealing with all kinds of fallout ­ – physical, emotional, spiritual that I can’t even comprehend – from twice battling for her life over the past 30 months.

Here’s the current update:

Skin rashes. Tear ducts that no longer function and a scratched cornea. Bone fatigue. Weakness. Stiffness and pain in every joint. Lack of appetite. Lack of energy. Lack of life, even after surviving the battle for her life. She has napped every day since Sept. 30th of last year and still tries to find the energy she had before leukemia wiped out our normal quality of life and happiness in March 2014.

Meanwhile, her insurance has forced her back to working full time, even though her eyes haven’t fared as well as the rest of her body.

You notice how she looks.

She notices how she feels.

Some days are better than others. Folks say: “It’s good to see you.” She says: “It’s good to be seen.”

But this post-cancer recovery doesn’t ever seem to get any easier.

But, for one glorious weekend, this is a time of celebration and gratitude.

This story isn’t about her, but about him.

On Tuesday night, Jenn and I are flying to Frankfurt, Germany and on Wednesday afternoon, we’ll be two Americans eating Mongolian barbeque, watching soccer and drinking local bier with a 23-year old German man who selflessly, inexplicably and (then anonymously) saved my wife’s life on June 26, 2014 with a bag of bone marrow.

When her leukemia returned last September, he saved her life again on November 19, 2015 with another bag of blood – lymphocytes that were designed to bring on the graft vs. host disease that has made her so weak and frail in 2016.

Seriously…what do you say and how do you even comprehend such benevolence and generosity?

HE. SAVED. HER. LIFE.

T-W-I-C-E!

They are now genetic twins – DNA and science will tell you they are literally relatives from halfway around the world who’ve never met. If she left her blood at a crime scene, it would be identical to his blood. His engine makes her blood and keeps her alive.

Well, on Wednesday we’ll be having lunch and we’re going to try to figure out how to say “thank you” for her life and his generosity.

Just think about that for a moment? What would you say? How could you possibly say it?

A hug? Some tears of life? Some embrace of eternal gratitude? A beer? Some schnitzel and black forest cake?

My wife has been to hell and back.

Twice.

We found the man who saved her life on Facebook on the afternoon of June 30. He had no idea she was even alive. He has been extremely inquisitive. He speaks four languages, including English that’s better than most of my friends from Dundalk.

By now, he’s keenly aware of all aspects of her fight.

We don’t need to ask “why?”

We know why. He told us before we even knew him.

He saved her life because he could…

“I did this donation also out of deepest conviction. I didn’t do it because it’s highly regarded in society. No, I did this for you because I believe it is our assignment to help people when they need help the most.”

At the time, he was one of TWO people on earth who had the DNA match necessary to keep her breathing.

Now, we’re going to Germany to try to figure out the rest of the story. And how “angels” still exist.

I’ve been writing about “heroes” via sports for the last 32 years. I’ve been taking phone calls and chatting about sports “heroes” for 25 years.

Ray Lewis was a “hero” once. So was Joe Flacco. And Cal Ripken. And Brooks Robinson. And Johnny Unitas before that.

And blah, blah, blah…

The charity organization we’ve partnered with is called, There Goes My Hero – just like the Foo Fighters song. With your help, we’ve raised a bunch of money and awareness about leukemia and bone marrow transplants and the registry and asking you to take a lottery ticket on being a “hero.”

I think it’s appropriate David Bowie was inspired and wrote the song “Heroes” in Berlin, Germany.

We can be heroes just for one day…

On Wednesday when you’re having breakfast in Baltimore, I’ll get to finally meet a real hero in Bochum, Germany.

We’ll let you know how it goes…

If you want to meet him, we’ll be throwing a birthday party for him on Nov. 12th here in Baltimore. Hold the date. Come and meet a hero!

 

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Rarefied air of Steelers Week for Ravens is to be savored not soured

Posted on 26 November 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

With five games left in the 2012 campaign, the Baltimore Ravens’ 9-2 record is a textbook testament to never quitting and having some special, battle-tested leaders who stare down adversity undaunted — and never, ever become unnerved.

Somehow, someway – even on 4th & 29 – Joe Flacco can manage to walk into a huddle, call nothing but go routes and still throw a check down and the other 10 guys in the huddle including Ray Rice can buy in on saving the game with some kind of miracle. Once you’ve seen that play work, there’s a little part of you that believes that all things are possible for this beleaguered group of purple warriors.

Eleven games into this journey, there’s still a legitimate debate about the merits and quality of this year’s team. And on a play-by-play, drive-by-drive basis it’s almost inexplicable that this team could be 9-2 and holding an almost insurmountable three-game lead in the AFC North. Almost every facet of the Ravens’ production on the field has come under scrutiny or provided some inefficiency, ineffectiveness or failure at some point.

But there they are at 9-2 and still in the throes of possibility regarding home field advantage throughout the postseason.

Week after week the Ravens seem to be on the ropes. And week after week I enter the post-game press conference watching John Harbaugh try to explain how the team won another game when the previous 60 minutes of football looked like a sloppy box of chocolates in the sun.

You never know what you’re doing to get.

Clearly, no one wants to play the Ravens in Baltimore. The home field advantage in The Purple Crabcake is now the best in the football. Is that the noise of the fans? Is it home cooking? Is it the comfort level of Joe Flacco and the offense for play calling? Is it the visiting team(s) coming into M&T Bank Stadium knowing the odds are long simply on reputation?

We don’t have the answers to this Jekyll & Hyde act. We merely witness it and remain alternately flustered and floored after yet another unlikely victory.

It’s almost like watching the Baltimore Orioles this summer – you don’t question how it gets done, you simply enjoy the result. Just smile and hold on…

Other than knowing that over the history of the NFL home teams have always dominated and are always given three points in Las Vegas just for walking out of the home locker rooms, the Ravens’ bi-polar domination at home and sleepwalking on the road remains an unsolved mystery in progress.

On the road, the Ravens are an ugly bunch – a scuffling, stumbling, punting and yet more-times-than-not still victorious bunch. From Cleveland to San Diego, from Pittsburgh to Kansas City, the Ravens have been on the ropes and could’ve easily perished in the 4th quarter of all four games.

And 5-6 would look, smell and taste a whole lot different than 9-2.

But what we saw on Sunday was an all-timer.

The Ray Rice “Hey Diddle Diddle” 4th & 29 in San Diego will go down in history as one of the most amazing plays of this generation. (And we’re still not even sure if it really was a first down? And we’re pretty sure Anquan Boldin could’ve been flagged for a block to the back and unnecessary roughness. He still might hear from Park Avenue after that one.)

But when Flacco, Rice and Torrey Smith aren’t create miracles, they’re walking off the field far too often on the road frustrated after another failed 3rd and something. Or going 130 minutes at a clip without scoring a road touchdown.

The same offense and personnel that is so fluid in Baltimore routinely sputters on the road.

The defense, which over the years has earned a legendary status led by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs, has been hit hard this season by a myriad

SEE PAGE 2

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