Bone marrow donation from brother saves life


Connor Whaley lays next to his brother, Cobey Whaley, as he receives treatment and his bone marrow transplant.

Nate Killeen

When current Senior Connor Whaley was nine years old, he was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia. Aplastic Anemia is a rare condition that occurs when the body stops producing red blood cells. The state leaves you fatigued and more prone to infections and uncontrolled bleeding. Whaley and his family were very scared when he was first diagnosed.

“I was terrified. I didn’t really know what was going on; all I knew was that I was really sick,” Whaley said.

Whaley was sent to Riley Children’s Hospital to receive treatment and stayed there for a month. His condition meant that he needed to have a bone marrow transplant. However, he had to undergo chemotherapy first, which wiped out his immune system.  During the month he was in the hospital, he couldn’t see anyone outside his family. He had to wear a mask at times for the next two years for his safety. 

Whaley’s family made shirts with the logo “Team C” on them to raise money for the expensive hospital bills. At Whaley’s elementary school, CFI 84, the students would wear the “Team C” shirts every Friday and send him pictures and write him letters during his time isolated in the hospital. With his school rallying behind him, Whaley got through the challenging time with the support of his classmates. 

“It made me feel really good about the whole situation, I couldn’t see anyone, but knowing that all these people cared about me and knowing that all these people were wearing these shirts for me, it made me feel amazing and definitely helped me through the whole process,” Whaley said.

When it came time to find a donor for the bone marrow Whaley needed, they found one in Conner’s older brother Cobey. Cobey was the only one in the family who had a perfect match, which was necessary for Connor to survive. The transplant was successful, and Connor has been in the clear regarding his Aplastic Anemia ever since. Connor and Cobey have a unique connection, and they are closed because of it.

Whaley makes food in the kitchen with his friends while they hang out. Whaley now lives the life of a normal teenager.

“He saved my life; it’s kind of crazy to think about,” Whaley said. The severity of his illness still impacts him to this day. 

“It has made me a more caring person, more compassionate. I am looking for more service opportunities every day. I am always trying to give back. It really made me enjoy life more, I don’t take much for granted anymore, and I just try to have as much fun as I can,” Whaley said. 

Since his illness, Connor has lived like any other kid and is currently enjoying his senior year at NC.