'We won't stop until we find a match': Family pushes on to save daughter's life
LONDON, ONT. -- It’s been a very hard several months for the Hill family, who are doing everything they can to help their 19-month-old daughter Savannah, who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.
“It’s very, very stressful but you need to be able to adapt to possible new challenges every single day,” says Savannah’s dad, Lawrence Hill.
The family has been told the best prognosis for their daughter is for her to have a stem cell transplant, but Hill says in order to do that a match needs to be found.
“So we all have a 10-point graph, it’s like your genetic layout and we are looking for your genetic twin who has the same ten points as your ten points and that way the donor sticks and your body doesn’t create antibodies to reject the donor.”
The Hill family has set up several stem cell drives to encourage people to get tested. There were two this past weekend, one in London and one in Windsor, where many people responded to the call for action.
“On Saturday, we did have two very large events and we had a lot of people come out,” says Sharr Cairns, from Canadian Blood Services. “In London we had 487 show up and register and in Windsor we had 262, so a very busy day.”
Cairns says there were many people who also contacted Canadian Blood Services who weren’t able to come to the events, and it is actually easy to do a stem cell swab without even leaving your home
“You can visit our website and you can register right online. You simply fill out a health screening questionnaire and then we will send you a kit in the mail to your home and then you simply send the kit back to us, postage paid, and then we take it from there.”
In order to be eligible you must be between the ages of 17 and 35, and even if you don’t end up being a match for Savannah, each donor stays in the system in case they are a match for someone else.
Cairns adds, there are other ways for people to help patients like Savannah as well.
“Every stem cell patient who needs a transplant will need blood products as well so there are lots of ways you can help a patient.”
So far, Savannah still hasn’t found a perfect match, but her family is not giving up.
There are 30 more province-wide stem cell donor drives this month, and Hill hopes that one match is found, not just for Savannah but for others needing a life-saving match.
“If we don’t find that 10 out of 10 based on all these drives, we feel pretty good that we are helping other families possibly find that match as well. From one child to another I don’t see any difference if it’s your child or another, if you really want to save a life you will do so.”
A list of organize drives taking place in the coming months can be found on the Savannah's Fight Against Leukemia Facebook page.