Be the Match: How a Stem Cell Donation Saved Young Girl's Life

"They need to find somebody ... a complete stranger, someone outside the family who happens to be their exact tissue type match, who is willing to donate and save their life.”

Want to sign up for the Be the Match Donor Registry to potentially help patients like the little girl in this story? Click here to get started.

This story is one that’s personal for me.

As many of you know, I have a blood disease called amyloidosis and underwent a stem cell transplant earlier this year. I was able to use my own stem cells for the procedure, but thousands of patients must find someone else to donate stem cells.

For them, like Mya Sullivan, it can be a matter of life and death.

In a family of four boys, Mya was the blessing that her mother, Nekisha Banks, had hoped for.

By the time she was 8, Mya ran circles around her brothers. Then suddenly her energy disappeared, and doctors delivered the news: She was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. If she didn't get it, "[the doctor] said there’s chance she’ll die," Banks said.

Then came the devastating reality: Only 30 percent of patients can find a matching donor within their family.

"They need to find somebody, you know a complete stranger, someone outside the family, who happens to be their exact tissue type match, who is willing to donate and save their life,” said Terry Haid, who recruits donors through the Icla Da Silva Foundation. 

Haid goes to colleges, businesses, wherever she can find willing donors.

It’s easy to sign up for the Be the Match Donor Registry: Just fill out a short form and get a cheek swab for a DNA analysis. If you are a match and decide to donate, stem cells are removed in a process that’s a lot like giving blood.

About 12,000 people currently need a transplant.

It turns out Mya was one of the lucky ones. Her 11-year-old brother, Jayven, was a match. Nekisha didn't want to pressure her son to give, but she didn’t have to. 

“He told me, 'Mom, anything I can do to save my sister, I’m all for it.' He was scared, but he did it. He’s her protector and always will be." 

Mya had a successful transplant at Lurie Children's Hospital and is recovering well at Ronald McDonald House.

Her family is struggling with the cost of all this. If you want to help, head to Mya's family's GoFundMe page.

To join the registry online to possibly be someone's lifesaving match, click here to get started.

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