This is Hillary. She is six. She has big dreams of being a rockstar. She is always singing. On May 12, 2019 (Mother’s Day), after a blood test, we were called in the middle of the night to bring her to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Hillary underwent two urgent life-saving blood transfusions. She was admitted to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and further tests ensued. A chest x-ray and surgical bone marrow biopsy revealed that she did not have cancer. Samples of her blood were sent out all over the world — London, New Zealand, Vancouver, and California. We found ourselves tumbling down the rabbit hole as doctors systematically ruled out over twenty genetic causes and viruses in a race against time to determine the best treatment.
Hillary is sick.
She has been diagnosed with an extremely rare and fatal disease if left untreated, Idiopathic Aplastic Anemia. Affecting approximately one per million people a year, this disease causes Hillary’s bone marrow to stop producing enough red cells, white cells, and platelets. She continues to receive blood transfusions to keep her alive. We knew Hillary was one in a million; we just didn’t know it would be in more ways than one.
Her low red cell count means she is pale and constantly exhausted. Her low white cell count means she is highly prone to infection. Her low platelets have resulted in full-body bruising and uncontrolled bleeding. She cannot attend school and requires constant care. Time has stopped for all of us. All we can do is watch and wait.
Hillary needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant.
Her big sister, Alyssa (8 years old) was immediately tested as a potential donor. She is only a partial match. Hillary requires a 10/10 match. This has been extremely difficult for Alyssa in so many unfair ways.
A transplant from an unrelated donor provides an estimated 85% chance of survival from this disease. If we are lucky enough to find a match, we will then need to relocate to a hospital with a transplant centre (Toronto or Montreal). We must then pray that her body does not reject the transplant, and make sure she remains infection free. Hillary’s recovery will be critical. She has a long journey ahead of her towards a healthy life.
We’ve organized numerous blood donor clinics in the city of Ottawa on behalf of Canadian Blood Services — only to now be in desperate need of blood. Our daughters have donated their hair twice to the Canadian Cancer Society — only to have to watch Hillary lose all of her hair for her upcoming treatment. We’ve given our hearts and time to causes like United Way Ottawa as a recognized Community Builder to help those in need — only to now be a position of need ourselves.
Not everyone will find a match.
This call for help is not just for Hillary. It’s for every human whose life can be saved by the selflessness of another. As you’re reading this, there are 18,000 people around the world waiting for a match — 800 in Canada alone.
Wherever you are in the world, join us in our quest to increase the World Marrow Donor Association registry. Hear this call for a cause bigger than yourself. Willingly offer something that replenishes within yourself effortlessly, and let young children like Hillary grow old, sing…shine.
Reality has been blurred with nightmare. We just can’t take a passive stance. We have to fight. We will leave no stone unturned. Your participation is appreciated beyond measure, as are your prayers for our sweet, sweet Hillary. God help us.