KENTWOOD, Mich. -- A young man, unable to leave his home without wearing a mask, will soon be getting back to living a normal life. It’s all thanks to a bone marrow transplant. And as it turns out, the donor was closer than ever imagined.
It was his brother.
Malik Kirkwood,21, was born with sickle cell anemia, a disease where one's body produces abnormally-shaped red blood cells that can cause a lot of pain. Malik has been through everything from blood transfusions, chemotherapy and now, this bone marrow transplant. Just three months post-surgery, Malik is already seeing change.
But right now, his immune system is compromised due to chemotherapy. Outside his home in Kentwood a sign reads: "Important Notice!! If you are sick, or have been in contact with someone who has shown symptoms of being sick, please come back another day when you are feeling healthy. This is the home of a young man recovering from a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. Keeping him healthy is our number one priority."
For 21 years, Malik has endured a life filled with pain and hospital stays.
“It was pretty tough to go through, each time the pain would be different,” Malik said.
He hoped a bone marrow transplant would rid his body of the rare disease. But first, he’d have to find a match. To his surprise, his 17-year-old brother, Javion Kirkwood was a 100% match.
Javion said he didn’t even have to think twice.
“The doctors asked me several times do you want to do this I’m like ‘yeah,’” he said. “That’s my brother. It makes me feel good that I helped him get through the situation.”
They’re brothers by blood and friends by choice. Malik did jokingly admit, however, that he used to “bully” Javion. They both laughed.
“We hang out a lot now,” Javion said. “Years ago we were close, we just weren’t hanging out.”
Now, the two enjoy hanging out and playing video games with each other -- especially now that Malik feels better than ever.
The boy’s mother, Estella Prater is overjoyed.
“They [doctors] said it would only be a 25 percent chance they would be a match,” Prater said.
“I can’t stop thanking God, I cry every day, tears of joy I still can’t believe it.”
Nor can Malik’s caregiver, Niki Smith.
“When we realized Javion was a 100% match it was a huge blessing," Smith told FOX 17. "If Javion wasn’t a match, they would have had to search a donor bank, which would have been a much longer process."
Thanks to a selfless act from a selfless brother, Malik’s life is forever changed.
“After the transplant, it’s been amazing,” Smith said. “He’s grown like physically he’s gotten bigger.”
Malik underwent chemo both before and after transplant. That’s the true reason his immune system is so compromised right now and will be for the next 40-something days.
We’re told that Malik now has 87 percent of his brother Javion’s cells, the rest are Maliks. The young man no longer has sickle cell disease, just sickle cell trait.
If you would like to donate to help Malik out, click here.