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‘I am my brother’s keeper’: CHS grad gives brother life-saving donation
CHIPLEY – Most members of the Class of 2021 are receiving gifts this week as they finish the last of graduation festivities and prepare for their next steps into adulthood. But one Chipley High School grad is marking the end of his senior year by giving in an ultimate act of brotherly love.
18-year-old QuaMauri Boston walked across the field at Philip Rountree Stadium Friday, May 28, to receive his diploma alongside his classmates – exactly one month after undergoing a transplant procedure to donate his bone marrow to his older brother, Quii-On Boston.
Quii-On, 21, was diagnosed in January with B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that forms in the B-cells.
Quii-On’s mother, Tasha Spires, said the diagnosis came when she took Quii-On to the emergency room at Northwest Florida Community Hospital in Chipley after he complained of chest pain and difficulty breathing.
“They did an x-ray and found a 10cm mass that covered his left lung and went to the center of his chest,” said Spires. “Because he was already seeing a specialist in Gainesville, I had his doctor in Gainesville talk to the emergency room doctors here, and they immediately arranged for a life flight to Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville.”
Spires said the sense of urgency was due to the Shand’s extensive knowledge of Quii-On’s medical history after years of him receiving treatment for XMEN disease. XMEN disease, short for X-linked immunodeficiency with magnesium defect, is a rare, heredity genetic defect which left him at high risk for lymphoma and other cancers. While rare, the defect affects both Quii-On and the oldest of the three brothers, Quinton.
Once at Shand’s, doctors drained more than 155 ccs of fluid off Quii-On’s lungs, and his fight against the cancer began days later with the start of an aggressive series of chemotherapy.
Doctors were able to get the size of the mass reduced, and Quii-On began treatment at National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, where surgeons performed the bone marrow transplant on April 28.
Because the family already knew of the risk to develop cancer, QuaMauri had already been tested as a potential donor in case either of his brothers were diagnosed, a step that would prove prudent and save valuable time for Quii-On.
“It means the world,” said Spires of QuaMauri’s willingness to help his brothers. “If it wasn’t for QuaMauri, there’s no telling what the outcome would have been. I am so blessed to have three boys who would do anything for each other.”
Quii-On says his brother’s gift symbolizes his siblings’ unbreakable bond.
“I was appreciative yet scared for what it meant for QuaMauri, and it meant a lot that he would do this for me,” he said. “All blessings come from above, and I love my family very much. There is no greater love that can be shown between two brothers.”
QuaMauri says he wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again.
“I love my brothers, and I felt that if I can help Quii-On by being his transplant donor for him to live a long life, it was my duty,” said QuaMauri. “We were always taught to be there for each other, no matter what. I am my brother’s keeper, and I feel that my brothers would do the same for me if I were in need.”
Meanwhile, Spires – who had to leave her job earlier this year to assume the role of Quii-On’s caregiver – says she is appreciative of her family and members of the community who have helped ensure she could be in Maryland with Quii-On as he continues his treatment, as well as in Chipley for QuaMauri’s graduation.
Her sister, Jessica Smith, stayed with Quii-On so she wouldn’t miss QuaMauri’s big day, and her parents, the Rev. Thomas Smith, Jr. and Angeline Smith, continue to help handle things at home while she’s in Maryland.
“I don’t know what I would do without them,” she said “Sometimes, you feel like you’re neglecting one child to care for the other, but they really picked up slack from when I was in Bethesda. That’s what family does.”
Spires also points to long-time Washington County School District employee Beth Arnold as a major source of support for QuaMauri.
“She has just been a really good friend, my keepsake and confidant with everything going on,” said Spires of Arnold, who serves as the school district’s Director of Assessment and Accountability. “She’s always there when we need her, just a phone call or text away. She’s my small-town hero.”
The family has become so close to Arnold that QuaMauri asked her to be the one to turn his tassel during commencement ceremonies Friday night, a first in her 34-year career.
“I’m honored to have been a small part of this young man’s education,” said Arnold, who will retire from the school system this summer. “What an incredible young man to be willing to save his brother and still maintain good grades and participate in sports. I’ve known his mom to be willing to do anything for her sons, but she has truly raised her sons to do the same for each other. Turning his tassel will be one of the last duties I have in my 34-year career and I am incredibly honored he asked me to do it.”
Like his younger brother and bone marrow donor, Quii-On had a graduation of his own Friday: He was released from the hospital but will stay in Maryland for the next 60 days for follow-up visits before returning home to Chipley. Once home, he will have to travel to Maryland at regular intervals for more follow-up appointments and aftercare until a year past the transplant date.
“I will continue to fight,” said Quii-On.
Meanwhile, QuaMauri Boston plans to enroll in Chipola College and then pursue a career in the field of sports medicine.