Alayna’s Story: Bone Marrow Transplant as a Cure for Severe Aplastic Anemia

Ashley and Chris Numbers are the parents of Alayna and Michael. Soon after their wedding they noticed that Alayna was covered in bruises, which prompted them to take her to Akron’s Children Hospital. Their first worry was that she had leukemia, which tests quickly denied. They did confirm a different diagnosis: severe aplastic anemia. Fortunately, her brother Michael was a match for a bone marrow transplant, and the surgery was a success.

About Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic anemia is a condition in which the body is unable to produce enough blood cells. It can develop at any age, vary in severity, and progress over time. It results in fatigue, shortness of breath, an irregular heart rate, frequent infection, pale skin, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, unexplained and easy bruising, prolonged bleeding from injuries, skin rash, dizziness, fevers, and headaches.

This condition is caused by damaged stem cells; they are unable to produce enough blood cells. The most common reason for this underproduction is the immune system attacking the stem cells. Other possible causes include radiation or chemotherapy treatments, the use of certain drugs, exposure to chemicals, viral infections, autoimmune disorders, and pregnancy. There are other causes that doctors have yet to identify as well.

Two tests are used to diagnose aplastic anemia. Doctors will conduct blood tests or bone marrow biopsies. After a diagnosis is confirmed, treatment consists of blood transfusions, immunosuppressants, bone marrow stimulants, antibiotics, antivirals, and stem cell transplants.

Alayna’s Story

Alayna was three when her parents noticed the bruises across her body. They took her to Akron Children’s Hospital, where doctors conducted a platelet transfusion and other tests, resulting in a diagnosis of aplastic anemia. Doctors discovered that Alayna’s bone marrow was only working at 30% of what it should have been.

After her diagnosis, doctors recommended two treatment options: medication or a bone marrow transplant. As medication can be harsh and is less successful than a transplant, the Numbers opted for the second option. The issue with this choice is that finding a compatible donor can be difficult.

Luckily, Alayna’s younger brother, Michael, was a perfect match. The surgery was performed in September and went without issue. Doctors predict that Alayna will be healthy and restriction-free by the summer, meaning she can enjoy all of the activities that the other kids do.

The Numbers want to use their story to stress the importance of donating, as finding a compatible donor is very difficult. In fact, people of color only have a 30% chance of finding a donor. It was this statistic that encouraged Chris to become a donor himself through an organization called Be The Match. He hopes that others will follow his lead.

Find the original article here.


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