Sheryl Turbeville has always lived a life of purpose.
Turbeville was a reporter at KHON in the ’90s before she transitioned to newsroom assignment manager.
She left news to work for the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission. But none of that compared to a life-changing decision she made in 2017.
Turbeville donated bone marrow to a baby suffering from pancytopenia, a condition where a person has low counts for all three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow contains stem cells, which become blood cells. But for decades, she thought she’d never get the chance.
“To get a call that I was a match for somebody, 20 years later. I was actually quite surprised,” said Turbeville, who was born and raised in Waianae. She now resides in Waimanalo.
She signed up as a donor on the bone marrow registry 20 years prior, for Alana Dung. Alana died in 1997 from leukemia, but not before driving thousands of people across Hawaii to sign up as bone marrow donors.
Given the opportunity to save another person’s life, she did not hesitate to donate – even if it wasn’t always easy.
“I have small veins. I was kind of concerned it might have to stop. I’ve donated to the blood bank before and they had to stop because my blood wasn’t flowing enough,” Turbeville explained.
The procedure, she says, was worth it.
“In the past, they used to do most of the bone marrow through a surgery in the hip. Now 80 to 90 percent is done through a long blood draw. For 5 days I got shots. And then I went into the hospital, to Kapiolani Medical Center. They did a four-hour blood draw. For me, it wasn’t painful. My friends were there. We had food. My mom, my husband and daughter were there. So the four hours passed quickly,” she said.
She had to follow standard procedure.
“You know it was interesting, when you get the call, they can’t tell you anything about the person they donate to. All I knew was it was a child that needed a bone marrow transplant. For a year after, I didn’t know…did it work? Who was he, or she?”
One year later, the family was allowed to contact Sheryl. Turned out, this Hawaii woman — made up of seven ethnicities — donated her blood marrow to Logan, an 8-month-old New Jersey boy.
“It’s really hard for families that are mixed races,” said New Jersey mother, Jackie Scherr. “My background is Syrian, [Logan’s father] Matt is Irish. Whenever there’s a mixed racial child that needs a donation, it’s rare and hard to find a match. We were fortunate for Sheryl. She was a 9 out of 10 match. Which means the greater chance for the stem cell transplant for grafting.”
Logan Scherr is now two and a half years old, and thriving.
But Sheryl learned it wasn’t always this way. Since birth, Logan has had at least 80 blood transfusions before receiving Sheryl’s stem cells.
“To actually see him, so full of life, and my stem cell donation has done wonders for him. To know you are able to save a life, is just amazing.”
Now, a local lady from Waianae is forever entwined with a New Jersey family.
“He has the same blood type as me now,” said Turbeville, smiling. “We Facetime, I got to send him Christmas gifts. I get to see him growing up through social media.”
One day, they hope to meet in person.
“We could never thank Sheryl enough for what she gave us. Thank you Sheryl,” said Logan’s father, Matthew.