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Playing Willy Wonka in America for a week for the German man who saved my wife’s life with bone marrow

Posted on 21 November 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

Now that it’s taken me a few days to recover from my mystery surprise vacation, it’s time to come clean on how all of the elements of the #NielsInTheUSA tour came together during his epic, whirlwind week of travel across the continent in search of Dirk Nowitzki.

The more we posted pictures from various places and with many friends, celebrities and people involved in Jenn’s fight for her life in battling leukemia, the more questions folks had about the journey.

All of it was a secret for him. It was designed that way because he told us he loves surprises. It was also his dream trip to America – the first time he’d traveled outside of Europe.

It all began with his initial letter, which we received on August 7, 2014 – just 42 days after he anonymously donated his bone marrow to Jenn from Germany that saved her life on June 26, 2014. Read the letter here: http://wnst.net/wnst/jennstrong-receives-the-greatest-life-and-love-letter-ever-written-from-germany/

WARNING: If you do not click on the above link and read the letter, you’ll miss the whole point of everything you’re about to read and you’ll never understand what you witnessed in pictures earlier in November. Please read it before you proceed…

(Yes, really!)

You’ll be glad you did…


German law states that donors must wait two years before they can be introduced to a survivor. We knew in August 2014 that Jenn would have to survive and thrive for the next 22 months in order to meet him.

As many of you know, Jenn’s leukemia returned last September and she needed her still-anonymous initial donor to once again give his lymphocytes to save her life on Nov. 19, 2015. This was our best shot to cure her cancer through an awful process known as “graft vs. host disease,” which she has spent much of this calendar year experiencing most of the gruesome aftershocks of her survival last winter.

On the afternoon of June 30th, we received an email from our John Hopkins transplant coordinator with the name of the angel who saved her life.

For two years we only knew that he was male, from Germany and 21 at the time of his donation of bone marrow to save a stranger’s life in America. All he knew was that it was a 41-year old woman in America he was trying to save with his blood.

His name was Niels Domogalla, now 23, and he lives in Witten, Germany. Despite having his email address, Jenn and I dove onto the internet and she found him on Facebook within 30 seconds.

She friended him. I friended him. We both began to write short letters of introduction but before we could finish them he had already friended us both back and had commented on our walls.

It was 4:30 in the afternoon in America. It was 10:30 in the evening in Germany.

And, so, a unique friendship was berthed.

And what, exactly, do you say to a person who saved your life?




It didn’t take us long to realize that this was a special and unique young man in Germany. First, he really was concerned about the quality and the grammar of his English. He speaks parts of four languages and his English is about 96% perfect, which is better than …

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Former Ravens assistant Del Rio directing Denver defense in Super Bowl

Posted on 28 January 2014 by WNST Staff



(on how practicing against QB Peyton Manning throughout the season has made the defense better) “Obviously, in camp it’s every period, but during the season we still maintain. Each day we have a competitive period where offense goes against defense. He’s the ultimate competitor. The guy’s very sharp so working on all the different things that we want to work on, you’re getting a true test each and every day.”

(on being a defensive coordinator after being a head coach) “When you’ve got control over the whole team, obviously, you have responsibilities and duties that go along with that. When you go back, take a step back, and you’re dealing with basically, roughly half the team it cuts that workload in half. I don’t deal with as much of the media issues, the marketing issues, and all those types of things. So, it’s just pure football and getting back to the roots of what I do and what I bring to the table teaching and coaching and having fun with it.”

(on what he wanted to implement into the defense when he started as defensive coordinator) “There are certain trademarks or staples that I believe in terms of playing great defense. So, you begin with some of those things. Building a mentality is first and foremost in terms of how you’re going to approach it. Being able to play with a seven man front against the run game and not having to blitz – those are things that we take pride in and that we begin Day 1 with. So, I’d say it starts there. Clearly in today’s NFL you’ve got to be able to handle space. You’ve got to be able to handle tempo in space. So, making sure that you have a design to handle that, and then to always make sure that you can keep the quarterback uncomfortable. Don’t want him to get too comfortable.”

(on having to shuffle players throughout the year because of injuries) “It’s been fun really to work at it and to be able to achieve what we have as a group of men. We’ve had a lot of challenges, a lot of guys go down, and we talk all the time about ‘next man up’ philosophy, which a lot of people talk about it, but we’ve actually lived it and done it. I take pride in the fact that our staff, we’re constantly working on guys, preparing our guys for the potential opportunity that may come, and then when it happens those guys don’t blink. They go and they play well. We’ve had those types of things throughout the year. It’s better when you don’t have to deal with that, quite honestly. It’s better when you’re just dealing with a talented group and they stay together and they gel throughout the year, but we’ve been able to gel and grow as a group despite all those injuries. I’m pretty proud of that.”

(on if he learned a lot from his years as a head coach) “I had that four-week stretch this year where I was the interim guy and there’s no question that the previous nine years that I spent as a head coach making decisions (helped). The wisdom that you gain when you’re doing it – regardless of how well you think you’re prepared as a young coordinator looking for an opportunity, when you actually go through the fire and go through the test of nine years of doing it, putting together the staff and all the different responsibilities you have as a head coach, there’s no question that at this point in time I’m much more qualified to do that kind of job.”

(on if there is anything he would do differently from his time as the head coach of Jacksonville) “Yeah, a bunch of things. There’s a long list. I think you’re constantly growing, regardless. I’m out each year trying to make sure that I am staying up to date with what’s going on in our game and in the college game. There’s a great opportunity to kind of share and learn and grow as a coach and that’s the way I approach it. I don’t ever sit back and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got this thing figured out’ because to me the game’s constantly evolving. When we go to colleges to scout players, I’m visiting with coaching staffs, invite guys in, and a little bit of give and take. Here’s what we’re doing and learn about what they’re doing and just kind of grow and learn football.”

(on what DE Jeremy Mincey has been able to bring to the defense) “He’s a veteran guy, a guy that I know comes with great energy every day. We appreciated him stepping in and being a guy that we can count on as we’ve gone down the stretch here.”

(on if Mincey fit into his system right away) “Yeah, for the most part. He’s kind of grown himself into a bigger-body guy. When we first had him, he was kind of a converted defensive linebacker that was moving into end positions and we play him a little bit now in end and tackle spots. He’s grown, got a little stronger, a little bigger. So, his role has changed since we last saw him.”

(on defeating New England in the AFC Championship) “It was good. We had a good plan. We went out and executed a good plan and got to advance and that’s what it was all about. Clearly, the combination of (New England QB) Tom (Brady) and (New England Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) has been a very productive combination and one that I hadn’t seen a lot of success against. I took a lot of pride in the fact that we were able to put together a good plan, go out there and execute, play well and advance.”

(on how preparing for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is different than the two previous quarterbacks they played against in the playoffs) “Definitely a little bit different. (San Diego QB) Philip Rivers, Tom Brady are both guys that are more field generals and not the athlete that we’re dealing with now with Russell, clearly athleticism at the forefront.  We have played against athletic quarterbacks this year, guys that do the read-option and some of those types of things. So, we’ve got to go back and dust off some of that stuff and make sure that we’re prepared for it and make sure that we handle it well.”

(on what happened after the loss to San Diego to improve the defense’s level of play) “As you go through the season, there are ups and downs. There are challenges that you face. We talked all year really as a football team about our goals were to be here. We planned for a championship and there are certain things you have to do along the way to earn that. Certainly after that San Diego game, for us it was like ‘OK that was a slap in the face.’ That’s an example of how it can go if you’re not on top of every detail. Basically, just challenge the guys, continue to challenge the guys like we had all year, but the urgency of the now, the here we are. I actually showed a calendar laying out the next six weeks and ‘OK here’s what it’s going to be. We’re going to have media day this Tuesday.’ Kind of laid it out there and said, ‘Look this is what we’re after. This is where were headed. This is what we have an opportunity to do, but it’s going to take right now, us doing our part.’ I think the guys bought into that message and we began to really kind of, I would say, focus and click at a higher level. I think it was pretty good throughout the year, but it went to a higher level. The last four games we’ve been a part of we’ve been very good.”

(on DT Terrance Knighton’s play this season) “I would say Terrance really responded at a time when we needed him the most. We lost five or six key guys throughout the course of the year. At the period of time we’re talking about, I believe (DT Kevin) Vickerson had gone down. So, Sly (DT Sylvester Williams) had to play more and with that Terrance… basically it became, ‘Look we really need you to step up and not just play well. We need you to step up and lead, help Sly be comfortable next to you, talk with him.’ He’s really taken that and run with it. He’s really embraced the role. He’s played well and he’s done more things behind the scenes aside from playing well, in terms of leadership and helping Sly, the young D-tackle playing next to him play at a better level.”

(on the defense playing well despite losing several key players to injuries) “We just continued to talk in terms of having faith that we had the guys in the room that were capable, that we had to step up, that if we played well together that we could do exactly what we’re doing now. We’ve got one more week to work at it that way. It’s a collective effort. It’s really been an effort all year where we have looked to play complimentary football and help our football team win – get the ball back for our offense, get the ball turned over, get off the field on third down, stop the run, all those kinds of things that you have to do – and that if we did that together we’d have enough and here we are.”

(on how CB Champ Bailey has handled his role in the defense changing throughout the season) “I think he’s handled it great. You’re talking about one of the real, classy, long-standing, great players in this league. His work ethic, the way he conducts himself, the way he carries himself – I think it’s a great example for the younger players. He’s been terrific. It’s tough because he hasn’t been completely healthy for large stretches of the year. Tried to come back and ended up getting nicked again and here we are now. He’s playing his best football and it’s a great time for him to be doing so. He’s an important piece to what we’re doing right now.”

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