This Saturday when the University of Kentucky basketball team faces off with the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament semi-finals, die-hard Kentucky fan Scott Logdon may think twice about rooting against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Nearly two years ago, Logdon was given a life-saving donation of stem cells that helped combat his acute myeloid leukemia. The donor of those cells turned out to be 22-year-old Chris Wirz, a student at the University of Wisconsin.
Logdon, 44, learned the identity of his donor last April, more than a year after the stem cell treatment and just days after the University of Kentucky squeaked past the University of Wisconsin at the NCAA semi-finals with a score of 74 to 73.
Logdon remembers feeling mixed emotions when the Kentucky wildcats won. Later, when he found out about his donor, he joked, “That must have been the Badger blood in me.”
Logdon’s ordeal started in the fall of 2012, when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia after mistaking early symptoms for strep throat. Logdon said his doctors told him chemotherapy could only keep the cancer at bay. A full stem cell transplant would be needed to cure him of the deadly disease.
Logdon’s doctors hoped one of his two siblings might be a match, but neither was able to donate. Longon’s family and community rallied in the small town of Saldasia, Kentucky, and registered over 120 people who would be willing to donate stem cells or bone marrow.
But no one who registered was a good match for Logdon.
“[The doctors] went to the national bone marrow registry to try and find the match,” the father of four said. “I had to go back to the hospital every 30 days [for] maintenance chemo; it was a very long wait.”
The monthly chemotherapy meant Logdon’s immune system was extremely fragile because of both the cancer and the chemotherapy treatments.
“Waiting on the transplant it was four months, but it seemed like an eternity,” Logdon said. Logdon got the call in January that a match had been found on the national registry and that it was a “10 out of 10” perfect match.
Logdon underwent the successful transplant and then spent nearly a year recovering as his immune system built itself back up after the cancer treatment.
“It’s like you’re building an entire new immune system,” Logdon said. “My immune system had to recalibrate. It was a long process, [but] we always wanted to meet the donor.”
After waiting the required time, Logdon and his family sent letters to his stem cell donor through the national registry service. Weeks after sending the letters and days after Kentucky beat Wisconsin in the NCAA, Logdon got an email from Wirz, a junior at the University of Wisconsin.
Logdon said Wirz told him he signed up for bone marrow on a whim after his cousin put together an event to raise awareness. If picked from the registry, donors are asked to give either blood stem cells or bone marrow.
“[His cousin] explained it to him it’s a 1 in 100,000 chance you’ll ever get picked,” Logdon recalled.
Wirz has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.
After connecting with Wirz over the phone, Logdon’s family hosted the college student and his mother for a few days this summer. Logdon said he and his entire family met Wirz in person to thank him for taking part in the donation.
This Saturday as Kentucky and Wisconsin play a rematch of last year’s Final Four game, Logdon says he’s staying loyal to his home team but he might be in contact with Wirz.
“I’m sure we’ll be texting during the game or talking on the phone,” Logdon said. “We’ll be talking some smack during the game, I’m sure.”