FULL CIRCLE: Son gives caring father a life-saving gift

- A fight for life coming full circle for one Valley family.

After being shot during a civil war in Lebanon, a father, Rev. John Sabbagh, stood by his son's side. Now, the son, Ebby, is returning the favor, by standing by his father's side to give him the gift of life.

"It is almost a page in history that is coming back again," said Rev. Sabbagh. "Coming back again, but in a different form."

"My dad was my savior," said Ebby. "It was a difficult time, and everyone's projection was that I'm not going to make it, and dad refused to believe that."

Rev. Sabbagh refused to believe his son was going to die, after Ebby was shot during the Lebanese Civil War. 

"It's a big bullet that came and exploded in the door," said Ebby. "I was driving my dad's car and it cut my leg off. My left leg off. Then, when I tried to adjust, I got shrapnel, AK-47 shrapnel in my head."

Ebby spent months in the hospital, and Rev. Sabbagh was by Ebby's side the entire time.

"I decided I will not leave my son until I take, with me, him home,"  said Rev. Sabbagh.

Decades later, Ebby is returning the favor. Rev. Sabbagh, now 88, was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) in March, following a routine blood exam.

Rev. Sabbagh's chance of survival was slim, and the only life saving treatment was induction chemotherapy, followed by a stem cell transplant.

It's a procedure that is considered risky for someone Rev. Sabbagh's age.

"It's not an easy path. It's a dangerous path," said Ebby. "It's never been done on someone his age."   

It was a path, however, they chose with the help of Banner MD Anderson oncologist, Dr. Rajneesh Nath, with the stem cells coming from Ebby.

"How much time he spent with me and helped me survive, and that was an amazing opportunity for me to say, 'you know what, it's my turn. Let me do this for you,'" said Ebby. "There was no question about it. It was like, 'if I can do this, why not?' I'm very fortunate to be able to do that for him."    

Dr. Nath said Rev. Sabbagh is one of just a few patients in the country over the age of 80 receiving this treatment. 

"He's tolerated this chemotherapy very well, and I would say I would not have found any difference between his ability to tolerate this chemotherapy than any one of our younger patients," said Dr. Nath, who went on to say they plan to continue pushing the limits, so others like Rev. Sabbagh have a chance at life.  

Rev. Sabbagh is now five months out from transplant. He is doing well, and he is not missing any jokes from his lifesaving son.

"It's special, it's absolutely special," said Ebby. "At the same time, he has my DNA, so if I do something bad, I'm going to point them to dad. I tell him all the time, I say, 'you know what Dad, you used to be a very smart guy, unfortunately, now you have my stem cells, things might change,'" said Ebby.

According to Dr. Nath, there is no evidence of cancer in Rev. Sabbagh's bone marrow, but he'll have to be monitored, on a regular basis, for quite some time.

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