When Michelle was first diagnosed with leukemia, Carew and his wife learned she would probably not survive without a transplant from a donor with matching bone marrow. Carew, his wife, and their two daughters wanted to donate, but they weren’t a match. In fact, of the 1.9 million people registered with the National Blood Donor Program back then, not one had marrow to match Michelle’s.
What made it so difficult was Michelle’s mixed background. Carew is black with West Indian and Panamanian roots. Her mother is white with Russian-Jewish roots. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, 29.8 percent of the total candidates currently waiting for transplants are black Americans; they comprised 13.5 percent of organ donors in 2015.
Carew, a consistent contact hitter who threw with his right hand and batted with his left and won the Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1977, has been outspoken on bone marrow and organ donations ever since Michelle was diagnosed. He’s known off the field for raising awareness and funds for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. This past summer, he took part in the 22nd Annual Rod Carew Golf Tournament, which sold out. Since he started volunteering with them, he has raised over $10 million.
“Organ transplants are a gift of life that you can give to another,” he said. “It is as simple as that. Konrad Reuland gave me his heart and kidney; because of that gift, I’m alive today.”
Carew was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame, and served as an MLB coach for several years after retiring as a player. He uses his free time to educate others on the importance of organ donations.
The late great Catfish Hunter said of him, “He has no weakness as a hitter. Anything you throw, he can handle.” That sentiment also applies to his life since retirement. He’s busy planning future events, including one in early November at the Dayton Heart Institute in Ohio.
“I want to share my story with whoever will listen,” he said.
October 10, 2017