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Mom hopes event helps find donor for son

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Monday, May 11, 2009

WILKES-BARRE — Michelle Schulze spent Mother’s Day crossing her fingers and praying that her son, Liam, will be alive and well this time next year.

In late March, Mrs. Schulze and her husband, Chris, discovered their 16-month-old son has hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH.

HLH is a rare blood disorder that causes the body to fight its own white blood cells. Though it is not cancer, the disorder is treated in a similar way, with chemotherapy and steroids.

To have a chance at surviving, Liam must have a bone marrow transplant. The doctors have not found a match for Liam out of nearly 13 million people in a nationwide donor database, Mrs. Schulze said.

“It is just hard to believe. You never think it can actually happen to you. When you look at him, he doesn’t look sick ... It is just overwhelming,” Mrs. Schulze said while fighting back tears during a recent telephone interview. “It is just a real bad nightmare.”

Mrs. Schulze, a Colorado resident since 2003, grew up in Suscon and is a graduate of Pittston Area High School and Misericordia University.

Many of her friends and family still reside in the Wyoming Valley. She has kept them up to date on Liam’s condition using a Care Pages Web site and through the social networking site Facebook.

People in Northeast Pennsylvania asked about getting tested to become potential bone marrow donors, to possibly help Liam. This led to the idea of hosting a drive in the Pittston area.

DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donation center, will hold a bone marrow registration drive in honor of Liam and his family Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Tribeca Banquet and Convention Center in Pittston Twp.

Mrs. Schulze and her family hope the drive may lead to a potential donor, but know that it is almost like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Only three out of 10 patients will receive the transplant they need, according to statistics from DKMS.

“It is just to promote (awareness of) the disease, and other diseases that are out there, to show how important it is to donate and how many lives can be saved,” Mrs. Schulze said. “Liam’s donor could be there. The more, the better.”

Potential donors must be between the ages of 18 and 55 and in good health. During the drive, potential donors register with DKMS and have their cheek swabbed to get a sample of their DNA. Once an individual registers with DKMS, their name will be on the national registry and can be found as a donor match for any patient in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Mrs. Schulze and DKMS representative Maria LaGamba said it is important that individuals who register and are called to donate follow through with the commitment. Bone marrow donors can help save people with HLH, as well as those affected by leukemia and other conditions.

“We have a drive just about every day. There are thousands of children just like Liam who also need a donor,” Ms. LaGamba said.

Copyright © 2009 The Scranton Times Tribune

Author: By Caleb Sheaffer
Source: The Times Tribune
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1.0 from 4 votes
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