Goalie Chris Seitz’s biggest save required putting everything, including his career, on the line.
The 2012 Major League Soccer playoffs were looming when the FC Dallas player got the email asking for help.
A bone marrow donor drive he participated in about four years and four teams earlier, when the wife of a former teammate in Utah was diagnosed with cancer, had led to a potential match: a stranger in a hospital bed thousands of miles away who was in dire need of a transplant.
That stranger was Philip Richiuso, a leukemia patient in Erie, Pennsylvania, who doctors feared was close to death after his treatment was failing.
“I was on the phone almost crying, thinking that someone else would give their life to someone they didn’t know,” Richiuso said.
Further testing showed Seitz was a match. But extracting the needed bone marrow required a painful procedure that included a needle poking more than 60 holes in a bone in his lower back. The recovery would take months. That meant Seitz, who was in the middle of a contract year with a pregnant wife at home, would be signing up to miss the rest of the FC Dallas season.
“His trainer said, this could be the end of your career. His comment was, I want to save a life more than play soccer,” Richiuso said.
But for Seitz, the decision was simple. He went to his coach and team, who he said “got behind me and really helped me and gave me the space and opportunity to do it.”
“It's kind of surreal. You don’t know what you’re getting into. You listen to the doctors, they tell you everything they’re going to do,” Seitz said. “I had 52 holes in my lower back. You feel really weak…. But it’s worth it. You’re giving someone a chance to fight and win the battle.”
Seitz has returned to the field following an intensive rehab process, and is now playing his best professional season with FC Dallas.
“There’s been no residual effects of anything for me, I’m back 100 percent and I'm almost even better,” he said.
And the news for Richiuso is even better – he’s remained cancer-free since the transplant. Now, he's hoping they'll get to meet face-to-face for the first time when the FC Dallas plays in Columbus next month.
"If we can get out there, I'd love to see him," he said.