The Bone Bridge
A Brother's Story
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The Bone Bridge: A Brother’s Memoir
Four decades ago in Nashville, at sixteen and nineteen-years-old respectively, Yarrott Benz and his brother Charley found themselves in a situation that turned out to be both a medical miracle and a psychological nightmare.
Charley was the dark-haired, athletic type and firmly heterosexual; Yarrott was artistic, blond, and questioning his sexuality. In the summer of 1970, Charley was found to suffer from a rare blood disease, aplastic anemia, and through a revolutionary type-matching procedure it was discovered that regular transfusions of Yarrott’s blood were Charley’s only hope for survival. As this dramatic arrangement unfolded, their already fractured relationship felt the heavy strain of dependence, homophobia, and isolation.
The procedure was new and uncharted, and by today's standards was an unthinkable physical burden, as Yarrott, alone, provided for Charley what now would require many donors. Rejection for an experimental bone marrow transplant dashed their hopes for independence, and, as a result, their emotional struggles followed them into their college years. The resentment they felt toward one another erupted in a crescendo of violence that left Yarrott physically wounded and emotionally shaken.
As a means of survival, Yarrott sought the only refuge he knew by making art. Then, in a bizarre twist, the doctors caring for Charley offered them an escape from their seven years of bondage: a new blood donor. That newfound freedom finally gave Yarrott the moment he needed to explore the world on his own, leading him first to Philadelphia, then to Italy, and, as a result, a warm relationship with Charley. Tensions soon resurfaced, however, when Charley suffered a severe relapse and lay close to death. Faced with the choice to continue receiving transfusions of Yarrott’s blood or begin a risky chemotherapy treatment, Charley decided to begin treatment, releasing Yarrott from his obligation; but Yarrott’s freedom was Charley’s sacrifice. All those years of resentment and physical hardship culminated in a cathartic final reunion that managed to give the brothers a small measure of peace.