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Vital Signs

Men share marrow—and a love of baseball

"Blood brothers" (and baseball rivals) Gerry Best, left, and Kevin Ireland met at Fenway.

By Steven P. Bjerklie

Gerry Best and Kevin Ireland have been "blood brothers" for two years. But until a few months ago, they'd never met.

In fact, most bone marrow donors don't meet the patient who benefits from their gift. But on a sunny Saturday in October, the two men and their families met—at Fenway Park in Boston, just before a Red Sox-Yankees game. Best, who lives in Claremont, N.H., is a Sox fan, and Ireland, of Norwalk, Conn., roots for the Yankees.

The stage for the meeting was set in 2008, when doctors at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center gave Best some of Ireland's bone marrow; Best's leukemia has been in remission ever since.

Seats: Their shared love of baseball emerged in the course of a phone-in radio interview after Best's recovery. So with help from the Red Sox, the men and their families were treated to a pregame tour of Fenway and seats behind home plate. The meeting was even filmed by Fox Sports and shown during the game's national broadcast. A poignant coincidence was noted by announcer Tim McCarver: it was Mike Lowell Day at Fenway, and the retiring Sox third-baseman is also a cancer survivor.

Bone marrow and baseball

See photos of the meeting of Ireland and Best at Fenway Park
View images

Over 137,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with blood cancers in 2010—9% of all new cancer cases. Norris Cotton's nationally recognized Bone Marrow Transplant Program offers all types of marrow and blood stem cell transplants on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.

Ireland says that meeting Best helped him fully grasp his donation's impact. "There's no feeling like it," he says.

"He gave me my life," Best responds. But some things haven't changed. "I guess I've got Yankee blood in me now," Best says, "but I'm still for the Red Sox."

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