Rowan Windham, of New Braunfels, Texas, lived an incredibly vibrant life despite being born with a rare and incurable disorder, Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome. It is a genetic disorder with many characteristics, including bone marrow failure and pancreatic insufficiency. He spent over 1,000 days of his life in hospitals and had over 100 surgical procedures with anesthesia. When he wasn’t sick, he lived life to the fullest, playing soccer, acting in plays and looking for Bigfoot. He inspired people with his positive attitude about life and was known for quotes like “Love your life,” and “If you can’t see the good, make the good.” Rowan’s only hope for a healthy life was a bone marrow transplant. He had no matches on the national bone marrow registry so his parents, both half-matches, became his donors for two stem cell transplants at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Every year, close to 14,000 patients need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, usually their only hope if they have leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases. In the U.S., 16 million people are on the bone marrow registry. But only about half of them agree to donate when they are called to do so. In San Antonio, where Rowan received all his medical treatment before going to Seattle for his transplants, the percentage of those who decline is higher, at 60 percent. Rowan’s dream was to register 1 million new matches for the bone marrow registry so lives like his would be saved.
Lisa Krantz is a staff photographer at the San Antonio Express-News in Texas. She has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography twice, most recently for “Rowan’s Reach,” the story of a young boy living life to the fullest despite being born with a rare, incurable disease. Her work has been recognized by World Press Photo and Pictures of the Year International (POYi) including the Community Awareness Award and third place Newspaper Photographer of the Year (2010 & 2015). She has twice received the ASNE Photojournalism Award and the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award for Photojournalism. NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism, PDN Photo Annual, SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi and the National Headliner Awards have also recognized her work. She is a three-time NPPA Region 8 Photographer of the Year. Her work has been screened at Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, France, and exhibited at the Festival della Fotografia Etica in Lodi, Italy. Krantz has a psychology degree from Florida State University and a MA in photography from Syracuse University. Previously, she worked at the Naples Daily News in Florida.