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Girl Fighting Sickle Cell Disease Waits For Donor

(KTVI)– A 5-year-old from Cape Girardeau, Missouri was fighting Sickle-Cell disease when she learned of a bone-marrow donor match and possible cure.  Then, the donor backed out.  Her mother refused to give up hope.

Debbie Carter remembered taking her sick daughter, Gabby, to the pediatrician.  The child’s spleen was full of damaged red blood cells.  Doctors rushed gabby to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“The problem was, when we were in St. Louis with her being so small and dehydrated, all her veins were, we couldn’t access any of her veins,’ Carter said.  ‘The only option at that point was they had to put a port in to access her, and they had to do it right away.”

Gabby was only 10 months old and fighting Sickle-Cell disease.  The genetic disorder damages red blood cells and the organs that need them.  Gabby turned five and found hope: an acceptable bone-marrow donor.

“And then, we learned — after a few months that that donor had chosen not to donate anymore,’ said Dr. Shalini Shenoy, director of hospital`s bone-marrow transplant program.  ‘This is a voluntary process.”

Dr. Shenoy said less than 20% of registered donors are people of color.

“We really need to enrich the donor population, both cord as well as bone marrow, with minorities.”

Carter fought to accept this cold truth for her daughter.

“Now, it’s not happening,’ she said with a shrug.

Carter admitted that donation is a minor surgical procedure.  But, she said it is also an investment.

“For you, it’s only a couple of days.  For her, she becomes normal,’ Carter said, with Gabby playing on her lap.  ‘She’s cured.  She gets to grow up do stuff that people take for granted.”

There is still hope.  Dr. Shenoy said a family donated blood from their baby’s umbilical cord.  It, too, is an acceptable match for gabby.

To learn more about bone-marrow and cord-blood donation, visit Be The Match (http://marrow.org/Home.aspx).

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