KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An estimated 110 million television viewers looked on as the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl 52.
But for one metro couple at the game Sunday in Minneapolis, football was merely an afterthought. Sunday was their chance to express their gratitude.
On Super Bowl Sunday, 59-year-old Roy Coe from North Kansas City got an opportunity to say "thank you" in person to the NFL player who saved his life.
The retired railroader said he's now gone two years with no visible signs of the non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma he's fought for more than five years. Coe said he was first diagnosed in 2012 after complaining to doctors of pain in his jaw. It turned out to be cancer.
In 2016, oncologists at the University of Kansas Health System performed a stem cell transplant, which, in time, helped Coe overcome cancer.
“The transplant coordinator there at the clinic asked me, "Hey, you have a chance to meet your donor if you want," Coe told FOX4 on Monday. “He said, 'You also have a chance to go to the Super Bowl.' I thought it was a scam at first."
The National Marrow Donor Program doesn't permit its recipients and donors to meet for two years after each transplant. Little did Coe know, his donor was New Orleans Saints rookie wide receiver Austin Carr, who had gotten involved in the marrow transplant program two years earlier while playing college football at Northwestern University.
Carr and Coe finally met last Wednesday in Minnesota. Photos show the two chatting warmly and hugging the way old friends do.
“I was going to shake his hand, but also I knew at the time, it was going to end up being a lot more than that,” Coe said.
Be the Match arranged the meeting and for Coe and his partner, Linda Baur, to fly to Minnesota. The Saints franchise gave the couple free tickets to the Super Bowl and a personal meeting with Carr, where Coe expressed his gratitude.
“It was surprising to know that it was somebody who was somewhat famous," Baur said Monday.
Baur said she teared up while Coe thanked Carr for saving his life. Baur said Coe had waited years before transplant specialists could find a match, and the outlook was bleak until Carr came into the picture.
“When you're given a diagnosis and told you're not going to live, but there's this treatment that could possibly extend it, then yes, you have to jump on it, and you have to rely on people who are willing to donate,” Baur said.
“Thanks to this guy, I got a chance to irritate my grandkids for a little while longer,” Coe said.
Coe also said there's a history of cancer in his family, and he's lost countless loved ones to the condition. If not for Carr's generosity and kindness, he fears he might have died the same way.
The Be the Match Registry is the world's largest catalog of cells, with close to 16 million donors listed. The National Marrow Donor Program says it has facilitated more than 80,000 transplants across the globe.