Delco youth basketball coach meets life-saving bone marrow donor

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (WPVI) -- It wasn't his birthday so Neale Boyle, 52, had a look of confusion on his face as friends and relatives shouted "surprise" when he entered the Concord Country Club in West Chester.

Unbeknownst to the longtime C.Y.O. basketball coach at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church, he was about to meet the man who donated bone marrow to save his life.

"It was a miracle," said Boyle's friend Joe DiGretorio referring to the discovery that a stranger in Mississippi was a perfect match.

Moments after Boyle entered the room, Trey Freeman, 24, walked toward him. Boyle was overcome with emotion as the two embraced. The teary first meeting.

Boyle, a husband, and father of four had been suffering from a reoccurrence of acute myeloid leukemia in 2016. He needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.

The community held fundraisers for the family and donor drives but none of those tested was a match.

At the same time Carol Barnes, a professor at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi offered extra credit to students in her health and nutrition class who signed up for the bone marrow registry.

Freeman said Barnes told the class the chances they'd be a match for someone in need was extremely slim.

Freeman, however, beat the odds, and within a few months underwent the painful procedure to have marrow removed from his pelvic bone. He missed a week of class and had trouble walking for a while so he used his grandfather's cane.

Freeman was not told the name of the patient who needed his bone marrow until January, nearly three years after the transplant.

When asked what it feels like to save a life, Freeman said, "I'm still trying to process it. It feels amazing but I still feel the same."

Friends and family members of Boyle raised money to fly Freeman and his parents to Pennsylvania for the surprise party.

"It's amazing that a 21-year-old would choose to do this. I don't think he realized the impact he'd have when he chose to do it," said Neale Boyle's wife, Carolyn.

The impact became clear when the two men came face to face.

"He's my hero," said Boyle of Freeman. "The sacrifice he made for me, gave my life back. It was a sacrifice for someone he had no idea who he was but he has a new brother today."
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