GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., — This Thanksgiving, Bree Town is thankful for her family as she sits in Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital fighting acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
After being in remission for months, the 10-year-old Greenville girl learned she had relapsed in early November. She’s now undergoing a more intense round of chemotherapy, but doctors say she will need a bone marrow transplant in order to survive.
“It really was terrible to hear,” said Bree’s mother, Jenny Town. “With the type of leukemia she has, the high doses of chemotherapy actually wipe out her bone marrow and she has no way to protect herself, no immune system… She’s in isolation and we’re trying to keep her as healthy as we can.”
FOX 17 first featured Bree for her efforts to “pay it forward” in June 2012. She collected items along with her big sister Madison to donate to DeVos Children’s Hospital. The pair also donated their hair to the non-profit Children with Hair Loss. Bree went through with the haircut in the hospital just one week after being blindsided with her leukemia diagnosis in May 2012.
Bree celebrated being in remission last Christmas while also crafting ornaments to sell to buy iPads for kids in the hospital. She was able to buy 13 and personally deliver a few to sick patients.
The Towns are hoping someone on the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry will now be able to help Bree.
“My husband and myself, her sister and her brother are not matches,” Jenny told FOX 17 News. “There is a 25 percent chance that a sibling will match, but in our family, that was not the case.”
‘Be the Match’ Marrow Recruitment Specialist Ryan Heinhuis said that’s not unusual. “70 percent, a pretty overwhelming majority will turn to the registry and depend upon a total stranger to donate to them and save their life. Those that do have a match in their family consider themselves pretty lucky.”
Heinhuis is working with to help coordinate a bone marrow drive at Bree’s school, Baldwin Heights Elementary in Greenville. The drive is scheduled for 4-8pm on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.
Although the specific science behind matching can make finding the right donor difficult, Heinhuis said the process to join the registry is simple and only takes a few minutes.
If someone is selected from the registry and asked to donate, the procedure is usually non-surgical, non-invasive and can be performed at Michigan Blood.
Several blood drives are also planned to help the sick fourth grader. Jenny said Bree has had to undergo three blood transfusions since being readmitted to the hospital, and says donations are “keeping her alive”.
Greenville area blood drives:
December 6th, 8am-2pm at Greenville High School
December 18th, 11am-7pm at Greenville American Legion
December 28th, 10am-2pm at Montcalm Twp. Hall
If you’d like to help or want more information on the “Be the Match” Bone Marrow Drive and Team We Bree-Lieve, click here.
Financial donations are also being accepted on the site. Click here.
Jenny said the hope is that Bree’s perfect match is found soon so she can undergo surgery in January.
You can also follow Bree’s progress on Facebook, by clicking here.