Person of the Week: David Turner

June 5, 2009 11:10:34 AM PDT
A young man in Hillsborough is on a mission. He's spending what may be his last breaths trying to save someone else's life.

When I walked into David Turner's room, he was writing a note to me. We'd never met.

I was thrilled also to find out that he felt well enough to talk to me. Right now he has good days and bad days.

Sometimes he's not up to talking, but he has an important message.

"I just don't want to see anybody go through the same thing that I did," David said. "You know?"

What he went through began a year ago. He started having seizures and then he would get violently ill.

His mother, Suzanne Turner, a fifth grade teacher at Easley Elementary School in Durham, urged him to see a doctor.

One day after a particularly bad episode David agreed.

"[I] tried and tried to find out what was wrong," Suzanne Turner said. "It took a very long time, or it seemed to us like a long time, a couple of months. They tried almost every test in the world on him, I thought."

There were three possibilities for David condition; AIDS, a bite from an African beetle or cancer.

David said he knew it was when his mother didn't.

He had stage four lymphoma, and at age 25, he did not have health insurance.

Medicaid paid for his chemotherapy but it would not cover a stem cell transplant, which would give David his best shot at life.

To get the transplant he needed two miracles. He would need the cancer to go into remission and he would need $500,000 in full -- no down payments.

When word of the first miracle -- David was in remission -- came last October, the race was on to raise money and to raise it quickly.

The fundraising included creating a Website, raisefordave.nexo.com .

Unfortunately, not long after they started, David's cancer returned. Sadly, most of the money they raised -- nearly $50,000 -- David cannot get back.

It's part of the agreement with the National Transplant Assistance Fund. If David couldn't use the money for a transplant, it would go to someone else who could use it.

Instead of hopeless, the bright, young man I met in his peaceful room at Duke Homecare and Hospice in Hillsborough is quite the opposite.

He came up with a new plan, change the old Website, which raised money for himself, to a new one -- bigdavesbiggift.org

The mission is to raise money to help someone in the same situation who is young and needs the money for the transplant.

The goal is to help someone once a year.

The mission is so important that his mom just resigned from her teaching job to take over the site.

"Getting to know him now, as an adult, has been quite an amazing event," Suzanne said smiling sweetly. "Because, you know, he is everything and more I'd hoped for in a son. His courage has inspired me."

"See that right there?" David asked while pointing to a tattoo on his wrist.

It's the Roman numerals VII. It stands for a scripture in the Bible in the book of Roman, chapter five, verse three which he quoted to me.

"Rejoice in our suffering, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character hope," David said.

It's hard to believe that in a hospice and in constant pain he can rejoice. But David is rejoicing.

It's evident in the words he wrote to me, thanking me for helping him sew his seeds. David said when his seeds are up in the air, they spread around.

And maybe someday, someone will reap the benefit of Dave's big gift of life.

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