UT graduate meets stem cell donor who saved her life

(Courtesy: WATE)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Everyone’s cheering for Makayla Claussen because she’s a graduating survivor.

She’s smiling now, but three years ago she was battling a rare autoimmune disease in addition to stage 4 cancer.

Doctors told Makayla she had a small chance of living unless she got a stem cell transplant. Her brother was tested, but he wasn’t a perfect match so they turned to the internet.

Out of 27 million people, they found the perfect match with Claudia Reverts, who lives in Germany.

The pair had only communicated through email, but Makayla wanted to thank the woman who saved her life in person.

So, she invited Reverts to attend her graduation from the University of Tennessee Saturday. Reverts says she was happy to take the 4,000-mile journey to the event.

“It’s the best thing you can do,” Reverts stated.

Makayla graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the College of Education. She plans to take a year off from school before continuing her education in either nursing or physical therapy.

She hopes to work in the medical field on the oncology floor.

Saturday was not the only day of celebration for the college graduate. Sunday marks her 1,000th day in remission.

“For me walking across the stage, it’s kind of to me the final significance of cancer didn’t beat me, I beat it,” said Makayla.

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