BY PAUL C. MCLEAN
It’s snowing this morning in Robert Kraft and Tom Brady’s neighborhood in Brookline, Mass. They’re probably still in Arizona. Monday’s not a great travel day back to New England.
It’s a snow day at Brookline High, so my daughter’s home. I’ve already been out shoveling the steps and snow-blowing the driveway. That work’s not done, not by a long shot, but I came back inside to write a love letter.
I don’t often write love letters (certainly not often enough, my wife might say). But she might get a little push back on that from our daughter, who recently has been reading the longest love letter I ever wrote. It’s about how I came to fall in love with Boston and Seattle. They saved my daughter’s life. Mine, too.
This love letter, the one I came in from the blizzard to write, is about the Super Bowl, in a way, and about Seattle and Boston as collaborators in an astounding comeback. The comeback that has become the prism through which I view pretty much everything. The one that made it impossible for me to figure out who I was rooting for in the Super Bowl Sunday night, or to decide whether I was jubilant or sad when the Patriots stopped the Seahawks at the goal line. Such ambivalence doesn’t wear well in Boston.
I’m originally from Los Angeles, a far-away place known affectionately among Patriot Nation as La La Land. Actually, not so affectionately. The writer Dennis Lehane used to live here and now lives there, which is the way that migration usually goes. I did the opposite. I’m a little strange in that way.
Strange enough that I really didn’t know who to root for last night. I didn’t know where to place my allegiance.
Should I root for the place where doctors and nurses literally stopped the bleeding and diagnosed what put my daughter at such risk? Or where the doctors and nurses developed and applied an experimental transplant protocol less toxic to the patient whose life they were trying to save? Forgive the mixed sports metaphor, but the way I tally the score, Boston got the save and the assist, and Seattle got the goal. Separate teams somehow on the same side.
By my scorecard, they started as teammates. Long before he pioneered bone marrow transplantation in Seattle, E. Donnall Thomas was a young physician-scientist studying in Boston under Sidney Farber, who would transform the understanding and treatment of cancer.
They were kind of the Belichick-Brady, or Carroll-Wilson, of their time and place. Drs. Farber and Thomas worked Boston leukemia wards together at a time when leukemia killed pretty much every child it touched, and did so horrifically. That’s no longer true.
And in learning how to cure leukemia, Thomas and Farber also learned to cure other blood disorders such as the one that could have killed my daughter, but didn’t.
Like stem cells under a microscope, their legacies still grow and evolve in Boston, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and in Seattle, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
I was touched to learn that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson spends many Tuesdays visiting kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital. We never had a visit from one of the Seahawks, but a Supercross rider apparently famous enough to have his own videogame came knocking one day. My daughter felt lousy, and we declined the visit. He left a stuffed animal with the insignia of his sponsor. My daughter got a confused look. “I thought Yamaha made pianos,” she said.
I can’t be sure, but Russell Wilson has probably stuck his head in the same room on the transplant ward where we spent a month or so in spring 2006 hoping a stranger’s stem cells could replace an immune system destroyed by the mysterious disease aplastic anemia.
I imagine Robert Kraft and Tom Brady have somebody to shovel their driveways, so they won’t return home to a mess.
When I went out to shovel this morning, my wife was sleeping in, and our daughter was in the den playing piano. A Debussy piece, I think. They say his music is timeless. They have no idea.
Paul McLean is a writer from Brookline Mass., and father of a child cured of a life-threatening illness at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
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