Transplant accomplished

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Alex Pasichnyk spent Wednesday afternoon beating the odds. That was the day she received her bone marrow transplant after more than half a year in total bone marrow failure due to a rare aplastic anemia. There was an incredibly small 1-in-14 million chance of her finding someone who matched or closely matched the 10 human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type factors.

Now, she remains in hospital in Calgary, waiting to see if the gift was a success. She also needs time to recover from the surgery plus the other treatments that she endured to prepare her immune system to receive the donor marrow.

“This past week has been a whirlwind. As a parent, the conditioning leading up to the transplant has been unnerving. To watch ‘poison’ infusing into your child’s body along with Total Body Irradiation (TBI) has been an emotional rollercoaster. All things necessary to make room for Alex’s new bone marrow. Functioning bone marrow that will save her life,” said Lisa Pasichnyk, Alex’s mother, in an email to Gazette the day after the operation.

“Yesterday was her new beginning. They call it Day 0. Transplant Day.”

Heather Kemp, the family’s appointed spokesperson, described watching the transplant like watching “a real life miracle.”

“It’s incredible that someone out there took time to get a cheek swab and register as a donor, and that they said ‘Yes’ when someone called them to go through the process to donate for Alex. This amazing stranger is saving her life right now. It doesn’t get any more hero than that.”

Pasichnyk expressed her and her family’s deep gratitude to everyone in the community who came forward to help make it possible for her daughter. “They have been the ones holding us up throughout this journey.”

A crowdfunding campaign (found at www.gofundme.com/allinforalex) has also been a resounding success. People donated money to help the family cover their expenses while Lisa takes the next few months off of work as an emergency room nurse, to stay with Alex as she recovers.

Hundreds upon hundreds of people aged 17 to 35 had their cheeks swabbed at a series of rallies to register for the OneMatch bone marrow donation program. Another is being organized to be held at the Ron Hodgson car dealership Jan 27. There are still between 800 and 1,000 people in the country who need to find their own matches.

“We are extremely grateful to the anonymous donor and encourage everyone to continue to register for the Bone Marrow Registry via OneMatch,” Kemp added.

Details can be found at www.OneMatch.ca.

As for Alex, this is just the beginning.

“Her fight is not over. We are told the next following weeks will be hard. Very hard. This journey has been filled with more downs than ups but finally we have an end goal in sight. We are hopeful. A complete stranger has given her a second chance at life. Alex will take it from here. She will fight hard,” Lisa Pasichnyk said.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.