A Western Washington mother sends her gratitude to the many blood donors of Puget Sound Blood Center who helped her daughter survive until a matching cord blood donor could be found.
Our eldest daughter was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in June of 1997. She was 16 ½ and had just finished 10th grade. She / we spent the better part of the summer at a hospital where they did their best to kill all of her blood cells. Her blood type was A positive. In order to keep her alive, she needed many transfusions of Packed Red Blood Cells (PRBCs). (Thank you to the many donors, who well exceeded our family’s donations.) She was in remission after just a couple of weeks and stayed that way throughout the 2 ½ year chemo protocol. She graduated from high school and was looking forward to starting to college in the fall, but when they did the final bone marrow draw to confirm her remission, we discovered that she was relapsing. This would require a bone marrow transplant.
The search for an unrelated donor was started immediately, but there wasn’t anyone in the international donor bank that matched her slightly unusual set of HLAs. No better match than 7/10 HLAs was found. Neither of us parents were an adequate match (parents can generally only match 50% – a terrible match) and our other daughter was an even worse match (she seemed to have gotten the opposite mix of our genetic dice), though siblings have a 1:4 chance of matching. She also had to start a new nasty chemo protocol that got her back into “remission”, but had to be repeated every two months, each time with a 20% chance it wouldn’t work again. This, of course, required many more units of PRBCs. (Thank you all again, donors). During this time, we worked with Puget Sound Blood Center and arranged to have an HLA typing drive in conjunction with a regular blood drive in our small town. The turnout here exceeded many that were held in big cities. (Thank you to our townsfolk). Though no one here was any better of a match, I have heard that at least one person typed that day went on to donate to someone else’s precious child. (Thank you, bone marrow donor.)
In talking with the National Marrow Donor program, my husband found out about cord blood transplants. We learned that a cord blood transplant might be our daughter’s best chance for survival.
Next week, we will tell how her daughter found a match, and explain how expectant parents can become involved in cord blood donation. You can Visit this page to hold a blood drive at your nearby donor center .