Darren Johnson hopes to make a difference in children’s lives, just like the staff at the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta did for him.
In 2000, doctors at the Aflac Cancer Center diagnosed Darren with aplastic anemia, which occurs when the bone marrow produces too few of all types of blood cells: red cells, white cells and platelets. Darren began treatment, but throughout the next year, his blood counts progressively worsened.
Tests revealed Darren’s condition has progressed to myelodysplasia syndrome, sometimes called preleukemia. Doctors at the Aflac Cancer Center told Darren and his family he would need a bone and marrow transplant (BMT) to survive. After spending several months on the National Marrow Donor Program list, a match was found for Darren. He underwent his BMT May 2, 2002—his 19th birthday.
Inspired by the staff and fellow patients he met during his time at the Aflac Cancer Center, Darren began giving back—volunteering several days a week. He took his passion for helping others a step further, when he enrolled in the physician assistant program at the Medical University of South Carolina. After he graduates, Darren’s greatest wish is to work at the Aflac Cancer Center and change lives—just like his own was changed as a teenager.