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Should Your Child Be a Donor?

Searching for ways to help save a local toddler's life.

Thank you to Moms Council member for last week’s question: It seems that people were busy prepping for or celebrating the holidays and didn’t have time to respond. I was caught up in the holiday rush as well, but was stopped short by an email, which read in part:

“I need your help. Kyle Crawford is the four-year-old son of a close high school friend and one of our son’s classmates at Serendipity Preschool in San Mateo. Last week Kyle was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. He is now hospitalized at Stanford's Lucille Packard fighting for his life. This has happened very fast, and Kyle and his family are desperate to find a bone marrow donor. If they don't find a match in the near future, Kyle will die.”

When I read that Kyle’s donor would have to be half Chinese and half Caucasian, my heart started to pound and tears came to my eyes. My children are half Chinese and half Caucasian. Could I ask them to do this? What if they said yes? What if they said no?

I knew that the odds of being a match for Kyle (or any unrelated patient in need of a bone marrow transplant) are great, and I knew that the donation process is relatively safe and generally causes several days of fairly minor discomfort. If I were considering being a donor, I wouldn’t give it a second thought—but thinking about talking to my children about it was a whole different story. I went to the Asian American Donor Program (AADP) website and read up on the donation process and the risks of complications, and I went to Kyle’s page and read about him and looked at his picture. I didn’t sleep very well that night.

The next day, I told my children about Kyle and showed them his web page. They asked me a lot of questions—mostly how much it hurts to donate blood stem cells, and how the collection is done. They asked if someone could be tested to see if they were a match and then decide not to become a donor. (I told them yes, but that I personally thought it would be better not to get tested if they thought they wouldn’t want to donate … because how would you tell Kyle’s family that you could help save him but didn’t want to?) I told them it was their decision if they wanted to be tested or not.

After about five minutes, they each said, “I want to do it.”

I was so touched and proud of them. But I still felt anxious … what if, by some small chance, there were complications and something happened to one of my girls? On the other hand, what if one of them could actually help save Kyle’s life?

The email said to contact the director of Serendipity Preschool, Patrice Warto, at patricewarto@gmail.com, for more information, so I had emailed her right away. As I was sitting down to write this column, I read her response. She included a list of answers to frequently asked questions, one of which states that donors must be between the ages of 18-60. I have to admit I am relieved—and I’m also sad that my daughters won’t be able to follow through on their brave decision (for a few years, anyway). After I read Patrice’s email, I also found the age requirement on the AADP website. Next to it is a link that says “if you are under 18 years old, click here.” My heart raced again for a moment, but when I clicked, it said there are no exceptions to this rule.

Many times since she decided to get tested, my 6-year-old has said, “I really hope I can save him. He’s so cute, and he’s only four, and he shouldn’t die. If I can’t save him, I hope somebody else can.” I really hope so too.

Two drives have been set up to try to find a match for Kyle in the next couple weeks:

  • Saturday, Jan. 7 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Serendipity School, 3172 Clearview Way in San Mateo
  • Saturday, Jan. 14 from 12-3 p.m. at Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, 558 Clayton Street in San Francisco

For more information, visit the AADP website or call Carol at AADP at 415-515-5334.

Since there are no exceptions to the age requirement, this question is purely hypothetical, but What would you do if you were faced with the decision of registering your child to be a bone marrow donor?

Carol December 28, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Wow, what compassionate, thoughtful and generous children you have. Their willingness to date marrow to another person at such a young age is heartwarming. Of course they can’t make that decision until they are 18 and it should be their decision alone, not their parents. Instead, empower your children and other children to do something else to help. Be creative, make a video for Kyle, send him your best wishes by singing to him, you reading him a book, dancing along to music, or make up as short play with all your friends as actors. Maybe they can become Skype friends, play a game, work on an art project together, keep him engaged and part of the play group. They could organize a fundraiser for him and buy him a present, like a game or a toy. They could make him a funny, interactive card and send it to the hospital or to AADP. Remember children this young with a serious illness like Severe Aplastic Anemia are often isolated and miss their friends and play mates.
Gwen Reandeau December 29, 2011 at 12:19 AM
It has been said of children that they can be cruel to one another, but if we, as adults, provide good role models, the cruelty and selfishness seem to vanish completely. How refreshing.
Dyan Chan December 29, 2011 at 05:28 AM
Hi Carol, Thank you for replying. My girls were disappointed when I told them of the age requirement, but you're right, we can do other things to support Kyle. By the way, it was their decision. I told them about him and they asked to see his website, and they decided they wanted to get registered. My little one is making a card for him right now!
Dyan Chan December 29, 2011 at 05:31 AM
Thank you, Gwen. We do agonize over all the little cruelties ... and hope that kindness and love will prevail.
Mckenna Smith December 29, 2011 at 05:35 AM
Hello, I'm the mother of a liver transplant child and have seen many cases when a child has donated a bone marrow to a brother or sister. I'm not sure what they told you but your child cant be listed as a donor however if you talk to the family and the Dr's they could work something out. Please do not give up if you want to help this family you must contact them and go see what can be done.
Carol December 29, 2011 at 07:10 AM
It is true that an underage sibling can donate their marrow to their sister or brother. However, no transplant doctor in the country will allow an unrelated, underage donor to donate their marrow.
Dyan Chan December 30, 2011 at 05:17 PM
McKenna, thank you for your comment. I hope that your child is healthy and doing well. The AADP site was very clear about unrelated children being ineligible to donate bone marrow. Thank you, Carol, for reiterating. We will continue to try to help Kyle by spreading the word, sending good wishes, etc.
Donna Megino January 03, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Happy new year! We hope you had a wonderful holiday. On behalf of “Kyle Needs You” and AADP, we thank you for writing this article for Patch, your article will help educate the community about patients with blood disease and bone marrow/stem cell donation. Stay connected with AADP news, drives and events, patient and donor info, etc.. by liking our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AADP.org) and following us on our social networks...on twitter (@aadp), tumbler (http://www.tumblr.com/blog/aadpon), google+ (AADP).
Cynthia January 03, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I have two little girls that are also half Chinese and half Caucasian, and I immediately thought oh my god, we have to help!! They are way too young and unfortunately it isn't an option because of their age, but I will definitely be passing Kyle's story along through my facebook. You never know who may be able to help.
Cristian Gonzales January 03, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Thanks so much for posting and sharing Kyle's cause. The sooner we get him a donor, the better. - Cristian Gonzales, Admin for Kyle Needs You's Facebook Page.
Dyan Chan January 06, 2012 at 06:51 AM
Thank you Donna, Cynthia and Cristian for commenting! The more people who get involved and spread the word, the better. I hope there's a huge turnout at the donor drive this weekend!
Dyan Chan January 20, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Update: nearly 600 people participated in the donor drive last weekend. The second one is this Saturday. If you can't make it to a drive, you can also request a kit to be tested by mail. Recent article about Kyle and his campaign: http://www.mercurynews.com/san-mateo-county-times/ci_19731997?IADID

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