“A rare presentation of a rare disease” is how the senior transplant specialist categorized Hillary’s condition during our visit to Chu Sainte-Justine in Montréal last week. In all of their years treating patients with aplastic anemia, they’ve never come across a patient quite like Hillary. That’s her in the photo (right) in the awe-inspiring Sainte-Justine hospital atrium. 

Hillary continues in the watch and wait phase. She is floating in the “grade 2 non-severe” category right now, but can dip into life-threatening “severe” at any moment. She might need to go to transplant as an emergency, she could coast at the moderate stage for years on immunosuppressive therapy drugs, or she could still snap out of it with a spontaneous recovery. 

After taking Hillary’s rare presentation into consideration, Montréal suggested a more conservative alternative before going to transplant, and CHEO concurs. It has a chance of working, but they’ve never tried it. After another 1-2 transfusions, instead of treating  Hillary with hATG and cyclosporine, we are going to try the less invasive cyclosporine alone, without the hATG. If it doesn’t work after three months, we will go to transplant. 

Does Hillary have a stem cell match?

We have been told that she does have a common HLA type, so that is promising. But, securing her transplant match can only be done when she needs it, as an emergency measure. Understandably so. They can’t secure a match now when someone in a more dire situation may need that match sooner. Makes perfect sense. Guess they can’t keep it in a cooler on ice for us.

This means that even if there is a match in the global registry for her right now, there might not be one in three months when we need it. What’s more concerning is that even if a match is found, getting in touch with that donor, having them pass their screening test, and making sure they follow through also has to happen. This takes weeks. We know someone right now who only has one match available in the entire world to survive, but the donor’s phone number is out of service. That’s right folks.

This is why we can’t stop.

Donor clinics continue to be held all over the country in Hillary’s honour this summer. We are planning another large drive event in Orléans at the end of August (date and location to be determined).

Until then, our calendar is full. Hillary needs to have two teeth pulled, to prevent a potential, dangerous infection. Alyssa and Mommy are taking a tour of the cord blood facility at Canadian Blood Services to learn more about that process (even though sweet Hills requires a bone marrow transplant). We are headed to SicKids in Toronto in the end of August to meet the foremost aplastic anemia specialist in the country — the only doctor conducting expansive research on this disease. 

That’s why we have to #StartWithHillary and never stop. Alyssa said it best last night before drifting off to sleep. She said it’s like playing the impossible level of a video game.

I asked her how we should beat the level. I said fight. She said pray. We’ll try both.