- 14-month-old Gracey Green was diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia, which is a rare cancer of the blood that affects young children.
- Gracey's only hope for living a healthy and full life is finding a matched donor for a stem cell transplant.
- However, the likelihood of people from mixed ethnic backgrounds finding a successful match is a mere 37% compared to patients of European descent whose chances are 72%.
According to the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR), people of colour are heavily underrepresented in the registry, making it difficult for patients with a diverse ethnic heritage to find a matching donor.
For 14-month-old Gracelyn (Gracey) Green, this means that her chances for survival are slim without the help of generous community members and donors.
Gracey was diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML), a rare cancer of the blood that affects young children, and the only cure is to have a stem cell transplant from a matched donor.
Due to her unfortunate diagnosis, the SABMR and Gracey's family implores people of colour to get tested to see if they could be a possible stem cell match.
'Doctors aren't certain how long she will live without a transplant'
After Gracey's mother, Shanique Green, died tragically in a fire at the family's Atlantis home, Gracey's diagnosis proved difficult to bear for her family.
Gracey began displaying symptoms in July 2021. At first, she simply appeared to have an "unusually swollen" belly, but after a GP examined her, she was rushed to the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital.
"That's when I knew something was terribly wrong," says Lizel Solomons, Gracey's aunt.
"A series of tests showed that Gracey had an enlarged spleen, liver and lymph nodes, which eventually led to a JMML diagnosis. It happens when certain white blood cells, called monocytes and myelocytes, don’t mature as they should. This can either happen suddenly or can be associated with other genetic disorders in some children. In Gracey's case, it's linked to the former," says Solomons.
When Gracey was diagnosed in August of 2021, she had to undergo three blocks of chemotherapy to slow the spread of the cancer cells, but to no avail.
"Doctors aren't certain how long she will live without a transplant, but our focus right now is to find the best match. The better the match, the better her survival rate after the procedure," says Gracey's father, Lorenzo Erasmus.
A 'one in 100 000' chance
Zaahier Isaacs, who is the Acting Head of Patient Services for the SABMR, has confirmed that Gracey is classified as an "emergency transplant case", indicating that there is no time to waste.
According to Isaacs, Gracey's chances of finding a match is one in 100 000.
"The likelihood of people from mixed ethnic backgrounds finding a successful match is a mere 37% compared to patients of European descent whose chances are 72%," says Isaacs.
"In most cases, family members, especially siblings are generally most suitable, but even then, only 30% of patients are lucky enough to find a suitable match among their relatives. That's why we must cast the net wider to the public to find the best possible match," explains Isaacs.
Isaacs says that the only obstacle in the family's way is the delay in trying to find the best possible stem cell match, given that the medical expenses will be funded via SABMR's Patient Assistance Programme.
"Time is running out. We are relying on the kindness of a stranger to come to her aid."
For those in the Cape Town area, there will be a Donor Drive held for Gracey on Saturday, 26 February at Atlantis City Mall, Wesfleur Circle, Atlantis from 10:00 to 16:00.
Others who hope to donate can also contact the SABMR on 021 447 8638 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It's so easy to register as a donor and only takes a cheek swab to test if you're a possible match – all free of charge."
Share your stories and questions with us via email at email@example.com.
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