matthew smiling after donating make-a-wish to his doctor's research

Matthew’s Wish to Pay It Forward

Matthew used his Make-A-Wish grant to help other kids beat cancer.

A love of science. A desire to help others. The reasons we choose healthcare as a profession are as varied as the patients we treat.

For 17-year-old Matthew Gould, his dream to pursue medicine someday is about paying it forward.

Matthew knows the value of an accurate diagnosis. He has seen firsthand the real-life impact of medical research. And he has benefited from the persistence of a care team that would not settle until they found the right solution to keep him well. 

Persistence pays off
In 2016, at age 13, Matthew was diagnosed with advanced pediatric T-Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. Matthew’s oncology and hematology team at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta tried multiple chemotherapy regimens and radiation to determine which treatment would best fight his disease. 

When those first-line therapies proved unsuccessful, doctors turned to blood and marrow transplant (BMT), also referred to as bone marrow transplant. The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center has some of the largest volumes and best outcomes for BMTs in the country, performing more than 90 of these procedures in one year.

One of the biggest challenges of BMT can be finding a marrow donor who is a suitable match. Fortunately, Matthew’s match was easy to find: It was his older brother, DJ.

It was a relief because the doctors weren’t sure there would be a match,” says Matthew.

Matthew had a promising initial response to transplant and returned home hopeful. But in February 2019, Matthew’s leukemia came back; in June of that year, he underwent his second BMT. This time, it was a success. 

Today, Matthew is monitored weekly by his Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center team. He also participates in physical therapy and occupational therapy to regain his strength after such a lengthy illness. Soon he’ll return to high school.

A wish granted
While graduation is still more than a year away, Matthew has dreams of one day working in a forensics lab in the healthcare industry, helping identify new solutions to heal patients like him. As part of the Make-A-Wish program, he got a glimpse of what this dream job might be like. 

Matthew joined his own doctor, Ryan Summers, MD, in the forensics lab. Dr. Summers demonstrated how he analyzed Matthew’s leukemia cells, and Matthew got his very own monogrammed lab coat. At the end of the day, Matthew presented Dr. Summers with a gift as well: his $5,000 Make-A-Wish check, to be used toward pediatric cancer research.

Matthew’s gift—and yours—will get us ever closer to a cancer-free tomorrow. Because no matter how big or small, every donation matters. Your contribution allows us to continue our research and knowledge sharing with leading healthcare partners across the country, resulting in new and better treatments for every young patient who depends on us for care. 

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With your support, we can continue providing kids hope for a healthier tomorrow.

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