HEADstrong Heroes – Meet Cody

By: Jen Hildebrand

For Dakota “Cody” Taffer, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis last July was the start of a journey that he didn’t see coming,

 Struggling with recovery from COVID, he went to the emergency room close to his home and underwent bloodwork and additional tests. Then, on July 13th, the diagnosis came back – Myelodysplastic Syndrome, in which the bone marrow stops making blood cells. A plumber and part-firefighter, Cody then put all of his energy into treatments, which included at least two blood transfusions per week at the start. 

For those with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, treatment can include a bone marrow transplant. Cody and his family searched for a match, and while a few were found through the Be The Match registry, they weren’t quite right. Doctors asked his mother, Ronda, to check and see if she could potentially be a match and two weeks later it was determined that she was. 

“It was a no brainer,” Ronda said about being a donor for her son. “They tell you that you’ll have a little bit of bone aches because you get three shots a day for five days before you give, so just take some Tylenol. By day two it felt like somebody hit me with a truck. I told him that it was a good thing it was for him. I give anyone credit that just donates to a total stranger because it was not the most pleasant experience of my life. But for him I’d do anything.”

Originally scheduled for a transplant in November, unfortunately the family contacted COVID again then so the timeline was put on hold. Ronda donated the bone marrow the first week of December and Cody was admitted to Sarah Cancer Center in Nashville, 202 miles from home, on December 16th. After undergoing a week of chemotherapy, he received his transplant on December 22nd. 

Cody spent two and a half months in the hospital in Nashville following the transplant, staying connected to his family via video calls as visitors could not stay due to COVID. It takes about three to four weeks for bone marrow to start producing on its own and so far things have been looking positive for Cody. 

On Monday, he will travel to Nashville for his 100 days post transplant checkup, and if all goes well he will be able to ring the bell signaling the end of treatment. From there, he will continue to have visits to his hematologist to test his blood levels and continued checkups to monitor his health. 

With treatment in the rearview mirror, Cody is looking ahead to positive things. While in the hospital in Nashville, he proposed to his girlfriend, Lillie, and the two are planning a June 2022 wedding on his uncles farm. He also has a goal to return to work and become a full time firefighter once he regains his strength. 

For Cody, help from HEADstrong came at the perfect time. As with so many patients right now, especially during the COVID pandemic, he has been unable to work during his diagnosis and treatment, putting exceptional strain on the family finances. To help more patients like Cody, click HERE.