BLUEFIELD, W. Va. (WVVA) - Bluefield native Cody Fuller was a student at Marshall University when he signed up to donate stem cells.
He said it was a small act of kindness to help a friend of his in nursing school.
"They stopped me and asked me if I wanted to sign up, I did it, at that point to help a friend," said Fuller. "I didn't know how much was going to come out of it, I swabbed my cheek, I put my q-tip in the plastic bag, signed my name and went on. I didn't think much of it."
Just eight months later, in November of 2019, Fuller was identified as a match for Ella Siders, a young girl from Glenview, Illinois, who had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
"Her prognosis was not very good prior to the stem cell donation in fact it was really um the only thing left that was going to give her a chance at life," said Fuller. "Knowing that there was no question with what I was going to do."
Fuller said following through was an easy decision.
"I knew the numbers about how rare it is to be able to do this, and I was so excited," said Fuller. "I have little brothers, I have little cousins, I know the extremes that I would go to if someone in my family was sick, and I couldn't wait to do it for this family."
The transplant took place in February 2020, and in May of this year, Fuller got to meet his recipient Ella via zoom.
"The meeting was awesome, it was a day that I had looked forward to since the day I got contacted I was a match," said Fuller.
Now, a student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Fuller said, this meeting and his help to save her life makes it all worth it.
"Being able to do this for Ella while being in medical school was honestly you know it keeps me grounded, it reminds me of why I wanna be here," said Fuller.
Fuller said everyone could do something to save a life.
"There's simple acts that can go a long way, you know in medicine: donating blood, donating plasma, obviously, stem cell donations um but I feel like people don't understand the importance of or how much can come from you know simple acts," said Fuller.
Fuller said he does not consider himself a Hometown Hero.
"In my eyes, Ella is the hero here," said Fuller. "You know she set an example for everybody who thinks they're having a bad day, or who thinks you know, that they want to feel sorry for themself. It's been an inspiration for everybody that knows the story."
That humble heroism and dedication to saving lives are what makes Cody Fuller a Hometown Hero.
Anyone interested in donating to AML research or learning more about that disease can do so through Project Stella.
Information about how to become a bone marrow or stem cell donor is available through the DKMS website.
The fuller family's meeting with the Siders' family is available to view on YouTube.
To nominate someone who goes above and beyond, has a huge heart, and does great things for the community as a hometown hero, send us an email to email@example.com.
The winner and nominator both receive a year of free frostycinnos from Wendy's.
Please include your contact information and theirs too, if you have it.