Hockey players swabbing cheeks to find bone marrow match for toddler with cancer
Published Monday, February 12, 2018 8:36AM EST
Organizers of a small-town hockey tournament are hoping the weekend event will yield life-saving results for at least one local girl, after participants were encouraged to swab their cheeks for a bone marrow transplant database.
Organizers and sponsors of the outdoor shinny tournament in Carp, Ont., partnered with the Canadian Blood Services to run a “swab-a-thon” alongside the tourney on Sunday, in hopes of finding a bone marrow match among the most viable donor demographic.
Jessica Stergiou, of the Canadian Blood Services, says young men between the ages of 17 and 35 are prime candidates for the OneMatch program.
“Males actually provide the best outcome for patients post-transplant,” she told CTV Ottawa.
Among those hoping to find a match are Tiffany and Kevin Payne, whose two-year-old daughter Mélia has infant leukemia. The girl was diagnosed with the disease a day before her first birthday, and relapsed less than two weeks before Christmas. The Paynes have re-enrolled her in a clinic trial in hopes of beating the disease, but doctors say she’ll need a bone marrow transplant to get through it.
“She’s such a special kid, and she wants to fight and she wants to beat this so badly,” Tiffany Payne told CTV Ottawa.
Kevin Payne says he just wants to see his daughter get back to living a normal life. “She’s been taking chemo(therapy) and fighting this over half her life so to her this is almost normal,” he said. “It’s really tough on us just to see everything she misses out on.”
Young men at the tournament used cotton swabs on the inside of their cheeks to collect DNA for the OneMatch program.
Among those who submitted their DNA to the database was Connor Baird, whose own sister once received a much-needed transplant. He says the drive is an important step toward saving Mélia’s life. “It could help her so much and in such a big way,” he said.
Approximately 1,000 patients in Canada are waiting for a bone marrow donor at any one time. Finding a match can be difficult, but the procedure is known to help with over 80 different diseases.
The Paynes hope one of the newly-registered donors will be a match for their girl.
“We really need to find her a donor,” Tiffany Payne said.
Kevin Payne added that it “means the world” to the couple that so many people are willing to submit to testing. “It’s basically giving us our daughter back and giving her the life that she deserves.”
With files from CTV Ottawa