Family of Mandi Schwartz connecting donors with stem cell network
The parents of a Saskatchewan-born Yale University hockey player are trying to connect more people with a bone marrow and stem cell network that could save lives.
Rick and Carol Schwartz will be in Saskatoon on Sunday for the sixth annual Run for Mandi – named after their daughter Mandi Schwartz, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December 2008 and died in April 2011.
Officials from the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, part of Canadian Blood Services, will take swabs from volunteers in hopes of connecting donors with patients who need stem cell transplants.
It’s the first time the event will have on-site registration for the network.
Fewer than 25 per cent of people find a stem cell donor in their family and only 50 per cent find a match in the international network of donors, according to Blood Services.
Mandi never found one.
“It was frustrating to know that. It’s almost like we let her down,” Rick Schwartz said.
In 2010, his daughter penned a letter, stating her hope that doctors would find her a life-saving match. She also hoped to increase the donor registry to help others.
If someone else in Mandi’s family needed a stem cell transplant, she would’ve been the first person to help out, her mother said.
“I just know she would be front and centre in leading a drive if she were with us today,” Carol Schwartz said.
Another registration drive in Mandi’s name happens annually at Yale University. So far, more than 6,000 people have registered and 37 have resulted in stem cell matches.
Ideal candidates are between the ages of 17 and 35 and meet certain health criteria.
If a person registers and matches with a person in need, it’s usually as easy taking blood, according to Run for Mandi co-organizer Bobbylynn Stewart.
“Fifteen per cent of the time, they do require your bone marrow,” said Stewart, who lost her mother to acute myeloid leukemia.
“They go in through your hip and draw it through there, so it’s under anesthesia. It’s about an hour-long process.”
Sunday’s event lasts from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and running isn’t required.
Lincoln Honoway, who was three when he was admitted to Regina General Hospital last year with dangerously low blood counts, will be in attendance.
After finding a stem cell transplant, Lincoln’s blood cell counts have started to rise and stabilize.
The run is planned for River Landing, with pro hockey players Ryan Murray, JC Lipon and Brandon Gormley expected to be there.
Mandi’s brother, Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues, will attend as well.
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