Searching for a Match
The best treatment for aplastic anemia (and many other life-threatening blood diseases, including leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma) is transplanting bone marrow donated by a sibling of the patient. A brother or sister is most likely to have a similar type of marrow. In some cases, a parent or other blood relative may be able to provide viable marrow. "With Kailee, we don't have those options," says Debbie Richards, R.N., who coordinates marrow-donor surgery at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Since May, Richards has been scouring bone-marrow registries around the world--which include more than 8 million potential donors--in search of a match for Kailee. "Finding an unrelated donor match is always a long shot," she says. "But it's a longer shot still for a child who's not a Caucasian of European descent."
Though virtually anyone of any age or ethnicity stands a chance of being a suitable donor, doctors are more likely to find a match within the patient's ethnic group. But of the roughly 4.6 million people registered as potential donors in the National Marrow Donor Program, only about 6 percent, or 304,041, are identified as of Asian or Pacific Island descent. Not one is a match for Kailee.
With time running out, Linda and Owen are rearranging their lives to save their daughter. They recently sold their home and moved to a smaller one that was more afford- able on one income. Owen has cut back his work schedule, traveling to Wisconsin every chance he gets. Last spring, he spearheaded a bone-marrow donor drive in Albuquerque that drew 543 potential donors. None matched Kailee. "But we're going to be able to help somebody out there," Owen says. "And that does my heart a lot of good."
They have also created a Website, www.kaileegetwells.com, on which they have posted a letter from Kailee: "My family has set up this Website for me as a means of gathering as much information and goodwill as I possibly can to help me get through this. I am interested in any kind of conventional or alternative therapies, including herbal, nutritional, or Chinese medicine."
Linda and Owen are prepared to do whatever they can to help Kailee get well. "If she doesn't make it, we don't want to look back and think, We could have done this, or we should have done that," Linda says. "At least we'll know we did everything possible, everything within our power, to save our little girl."