Lawrence “Rusty” Hofmann, MD, has received numerous awards and honors in his 20-year career as a physician. But none means more to him than being named a "phenomenal father" today on NBC’s "Today."
Nominated by his 14-year old son Grady, Rusty, an interventional radiologist, appeared on national TV via Skype, alongside his son and “blood brother” Grady. In 2012, Rusty donated his bone marrow to Grady, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in the spring of his third grade year. His body had stopped producing new blood cells, a condition which required that he have a bone marrow transplant to survive.
In less than a month, Grady endured dozens of doctor’s appointments, two weeks of chemotherapy to destroy his non-functioning bone marrow, and an eight-hour transfusion of his dad’s bone marrow. Rusty was a near perfect match for his son, which greatly improved Grady’s outcomes.
The BMT process required that Grady be isolated in the hospital for 60 days, followed by another 100 days of isolation at home to protect him from infection while his bone marrow regenerated. His brothers saved him from boredom with Nerf gun battles and indoor basketball games. And his mom saved him from repeating a grade by home schooling him.
One part of the family’s daily life that didn’t change during Grady’s medical ordeal was the Hofmann morning routine of breakfast and "Today." So when Grady heard that the show was soliciting nominations for phenomenal fathers, he didn’t hesitate to send in his online nomination, a few short lines describing why his dad is indeed the best.
“I am Grady Hofmann, age 14, and I am nominating my dad for the Greatest Dad because he saved my life,” Grady wrote. “When I was nine, he donated his bone marrow to me. Because of my dad, I am alive today.”
But the last thing Grady expected was that his dad would actually get chosen. He simply planned to give his dad the "Today" nomination letter as his Father’s Day gift this year. “I thought a nomination would be better than giving my Dad a ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ coffee mug or t-shirt,” he said.
When his mom, Amy, told Grady that a "Today" producer had called and wanted to talk to him, he thought she was joking. That was the same response Rusty had when his family told him about the honor just last week. “I thought Grady was joking on two counts,” said Rusty. “First that he had nominated me, and second that I was actually selected.”
If you ask Rusty if he is deserving of the honor, he points to his wife Amy. “Any parenting awards should go to her,” said Rusty. “She is the glue that keeps all of us ('The Hofmann Party of Five') together.”
Today, Grady is five-years post transplant, a milestone he reached in April of this year. “My family and I celebrate my transplant anniversary every year,” said Grady, who just finished middle school and will be entering high school in the fall. “This is not a celebration for just me, but for my whole family, because it was not only hard for me, but it was hard for my whole family. Throughout this experience, I learned that you can go through any hardship if you have your family to help you through it.”
A modified version of this story originally appeared on Stanford Health Care's website.
Previously: Bone marrow transplantation: The ultimate exercise in matchmaking and Seek second opinions and embrace technology, Stanford physician urges patients
Photo in featured image box courtesy of Amy Hofmann