Claussen’s Story Touches Community, Draws Media Coverage

On Saturday, Makayla Claussen received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

makayla_featDuring her sophomore year, Claussen was diagnosed with secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). The rare and potentially fatal autoimmune disease occurs in one out of 1.2 million people worldwide.

As if fighting a rare disease wasn’t enough, Claussen later learned that she also had cancer—stage four non-Hodgkin’s T-cell lymphoma.

Four months after her diagnosis, Claussen received a stem cell transplant from a donor in Germany—a one in 27 million match. The transplant saved her life and she was able to return to UT several months later.

Her story struck a chord with the community, sending more than 5,000 people to read her story on Tennessee Today. Local media outlets were on campus before her graduation to capture the moment she met Claudia Reverts, the donor whose stem cells saved her life.

WBIR: Moments before graduating from UT, cancer survivor meets donor who saved her life

WATE: University of Tennessee graduate meets stem cell donor who saved her life

News Sentinel: Nerves fade to excitement as UT grad meets bone marrow donor for the first time

WKRN: UT graduate meets stem cell donor who saved her life

WTSP: Cancer survivor meets donor moments before graduating