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Stem cell match found for teen who made appeal to Filipino community
Family of a 16-year-old girl suffering from life-threatening diseases say a Christmas miracle has granted them the best present imaginable – a stem cell match for the teen.
In early November, just over 500 people came out to a registration drive in Winnipeg for Canada’s stem cell database, and to be swabbed to see if they were a match for Roshlind Mance. The teen, who lives in Alberta after moving from Winnipeg with her family, has aplastic anemia and paroxysmal hemoglobinuria, also known as PNH, conditions that kept her in and out of hospital and requiring regular blood transfusion.
People with similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to match, and only a fraction of those in the database are of Filipino descent.
On Friday, it was announced a match for Mance was found.
“There are no words to describe it. It’s really an emotional thing,” Mance told CTV News.
“Just knowing I have a match just means that I can get back to normal life and be a normal teenager again,” she said, mentioning plans to return to school, and possibly find a career in the medical field someday, perhaps as a vet or paramedic.
Mance’s sister Adrienne San Juan said there’s no date set for a transplant yet but that it could come in late January or early February. She also said it will be some time after that before they know the origin of the donation, if at all.
“We won’t know anything about the donor until about after two years and they have to agree to meet us,” she said. “They could be anywhere around the world. We don’t know.”
“I just want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. This is the person that is saving my life. So literally there is no words to explain how grateful I am for this person,” said Mance.
San Juan said there is a small chance the transplant won’t be a success, but the match is quite close for an unrelated donor.
“We found a 9/10 so that’s pretty high,” she said, explaining the number refers to HLA markers that are required to be a 7/10 or higher for a successful transplant.
While a match for Mance has been found, the family’s campaign to register more potential stem cell donors continues. A drive event for Vancouver that was already in the works when the match was found will go ahead in the new year.
“We feel like our story will motivate more people to come out and hopefully be a match for someone else, said San Juan. “It’s amazing that this complete stranger is wanting to save my sister’s life.”
Canadian Blood Services says fewer than one per cent of potential donors on its stem cell database are Filipino, and while finding a match is hard for anyone, Canadians who are of Indigenous, Asian, South Asian or African descent have the greatest difficulty.
More information about becoming a stem cell donor is available online.
With files from CTV's Michelle Gerwing