Edmonton mother searching for stem cell donor
Published Sunday, September 28, 2014 5:45PM MDT Last Updated Sunday, September 28, 2014 6:31PM MDT
An Edmonton mother of twin toddlers has been searching for a stem cell donor so that she can see her children grow up.
Until the night of August 8 Tammy McLash was a stay at home mom. But a voice message she received from her doctor, following routine blood tests, would change that.
According to her husband, Mathew, it wasn’t until the couple’s two-year-old twins were in bed that Tammy had time to check her cell phone messages.
“She was just too busy chasing the kids to even look at it,” he said.
“It was from her new physician saying ‘You’ve got to get to the closest emergency room so you can get a blood transfusion because your platelets are very low’.”
He said the news shocked and confused the couple.
“We didn’t know what this meant,” Mathew said, adding they spent some time searching it out on the Internet.
“Within a half an hour Tammy just grabbed her purse and went to the U of A emergency.”
After several hours and many tests it was discovered that Tammy had Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
She was given chemotherapy treatment to try and get her into remission but when that failed a second round of chemo was started, along with the search for a stem cell donor.
“If we don’t have a match then she keeps going for further and further chemo treatments, which get harder and harder on your body and open you up to more and more potential infections.
“We tested her sister and we tested her brother and neither were a match,” Mathew explained.
The search for a match continued with the Canadian database.
“If there is not a match in Canada they search the global database. There is not one central database, it is country by country but it is all organized and run through blood services.”
According to Canadian Blood Services there are 220,000 donors across Canada and 11 million worldwide.
Mathew said he couldn’t understand why anyone would refuse to donate.
“I look at it and I ask people, ‘If you know that you might be holding the cure to cancer for somebody would you not do it? Would you not donate?’
“It is not as challenging anymore for people to actually donate stem cells. It is not an easy thing but it is not as hard.”
He said he would not hesitate.
“Absolutely. It doesn’t have to be me knowing you. I would do it for anybody.
“If you match somebody that has cancer you could cure them. You are probably going to cure them.”
A spokesperson with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada said blood cancers were a major concern in Canada.
“In Canada there are about 110,000 living with or in remission from a blood cancer. Every 25 minutes somebody is newly diagnosed with a blood cancer,” Lynn Cox said.
The Society helps fund research, education and support services for patients and their families.
About one thousand people participated in the Society’s Light the Night fundraiser Saturday.
According to Cox the event was the biggest campaign for the Society.
“Last year it raised close to $5 million. So it is a really major fundraising event.”
Mathew takes the kids to visit three times a day but still hopes he will be able to have his wife back home soon.
“I am trying to save my wife’s life. I am trying to save other patient’s lives because it is possible to cure and so why wouldn’t people try?
“I need my wife but my kids sure need their mom.”
Those interested in becoming a stem cell donor must be between the ages of 17 and 35-years-old, in good general health and willing to donate to any patient in need. For more information visit the Canadian Blood Services website.
With files from Amanda Anderson