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Bone marrow match found for six-year-old leukemia patient Ellie White
There's a promising development for Ellie White, a six-year-old girl battling leukemia: a bone marrow marrow match.
Ellie’s battle is far from over, though.
The girl's desperate search and struggle, which was shared on social media as #SwabForEllie and reported on CTV, is at a hopeful point. The matching donor is willing to go through with the procedure, according to Hema-Quebec.
“There is a donor for Ellie, which of course is wonderful, but there’s still a lot of work ahead,” said the girl’s mother, Amanda Sokoloff.
Sokoloff said that next week -- on Christmas Eve or Day -- Ellie will undergo another test to determine if the leukemia is completely gone from her system. If it is, doctors can go ahead with the bone marrow transplant.
If not, the girl will have to undergo more chemotherapy before trying again.
"We were obviously very happy to hear the news, however in the last few weeks we’ve learned that it’s not black and white. Just because she found a match does not mean there is an end to this nightmare," said Sokoloff. “It means there is a chance that she will be able to lead a normal life again, but there are a lot of moving pieces in order for that to happen.”
If the procedure is cleared to go ahead, the donor will have their bone marrow extracted in mid-January and Ellie will receive the transplant within 48 hours of donation.
The family doesn’t know any details about the donor; that information is kept private by Hema-Quebec for two years. The donor could be from anywhere in the world, though typically there are better chances of a match within a donor's ethnicity group.
“If both parties agree, then it's possible - and we have stories of both people who had the chance and the will to meet each other. So let's hope for the best for Ellie," said Laurent Paul Menard of Hema-Quebec.
Ellie is currently at home with her sister and her new puppy.
“Ellie is thrilled to be home,” said Sokoloff. “She is so happy to be home with her family.”
Finding a match is extremely rare
According to Hema-Quebec, finding a bone marrow match is as rare as winning the Lotto 6/49. There are over 15 million different combinations that need to match up for a transplant to take place.
Since CTV first reported on this story in October, Hema-Quebec said it had over 900 sign-ups for testing kits in one weekend alone.
More were added after former Montreal Canadiens player P.K. Subban tweeted about Ellie.
Several swab drives also targeted young people, as Hema-Quebec will only test those between 18 and 35 years old because age plays a significant factor in how successful the donation will be.
Those who wish to be donors can do it easily with a swab kit, ordered online from Hema-Quebec. The network is worldwide.
“You will help someone, maybe once in your lifetime, and the odds are that mostly you will never receive a call from Hema-Quebec, because only 3 per cent of those who were already registered received a call,” explained Menard.
Sokoloff said she’s been overwhelmed by the support her family has received in the way of bone marrow testing, words of support and even baked goods.
“I often wake up wondering where exactly I will find the strength to make it through the day, because they’re hard for all different reasons, but the little support we get makes such an astronomical difference that it really does make it possible,” she said. “I will be grateful for the rest of my life.”