Brother Donates Bone Marrow to Rising Opera Singer - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Brother Donates Bone Marrow to Rising Opera Singer

Only 30 percent of people find a match within their family



    Two brothers with seemingly nothing in common were a matched set when one needed a bone marrow transplant. (Published Sunday, May 20, 2012)

    Two brothers who seemingly had nothing in common turned out to be a match set after all when the younger was diagnosed with leukemia.

    When Jason Schilder, a music student at Oklahoma City University, needed a bone marrow transplant donor to save his life, doctors discovered that his older brother, Chris, was a match.

    "A week later, he called me up in tears on the phone and said, 'You're a match. You can do this for me,'" Chris Schilder said. "It was so awesome to hear the first positive news after so much bad."

    It was a rare circumstance. Only 30 percent of people find a match within their family, according to the National Marrow Donor program.

    "Many patients do great with unrelated matches, but there's something special about sibling matches, and I know that he and his brother are close, so this is a special bond that they share," said Dr. Karen Albritton, an oncologist who has been treating Jason Schilder since he arrived at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.

    Growing up, the Schilder brothers were far from a matched set. Jason was all personality, while his older brother was the complete opposite.

    "When I was younger, my mom put me in drama class because I was so shy and scared, and I liked it," Chris Schilder said. "Then Jason started doing it because I was doing it."

    The brothers said theater was infectious. Chris Schilder graced the stage briefly but fell more naturally into directing while his little brother quickly took center stage.

    "That this was a young man singing these songs with this huge, rich deep voice -- it was shocking that that was my brother," Chris Schilder said.

    Today, Jason Schilder is a rising opera star.

    "You just get out there, and everything about it -- the audience, the lights, the full orchestra, just giving your voice to all of that -- opera is just an amazing thing," he said.

    Two months ago, he developed unimaginable pain.

    "It was like there was a knife going through my bone," he said.

    Schilder abruptly left school and his love of opera to come home for treatment after doctors diagnosed him with leukemia.

    "When I saw the big words 'oncology floor,' I was like, 'Wait, why am I up here?' And that's really when it hit home," he said.

    "It's awful," his brother said. "The first thing you think of is, 'Is he going to die?'"

    But the brothers said there were immediate blessings, such as being home for treatment at Cook Children's Medical Center.

    "We all fell in love with him right away," Albritton said. "He clearly has so much personality and had a great sense of humor."

    Jason Schilder's road to healing is long but both brothers said his voice will return to the stage someday.

    "I am not going to let this stop my life," Jason Schilder said.

    "You fight, but you're going to do whatever it takes at the end of the day," Chris Schilder said.