U of R hosts stem cell swabbing initiative to help save lives through national database
At just four-years-old, Erica Honoway’s son has gone through more than most people will experience in a lifetime.
In February 2016, the family received devastating news, her son Lincoln had been diagnosed with bone marrow failure. He was just three years old at the time.
Lincoln needed a bone marrow transplant, and doctors were only able to find two matches in the entire world. The first donor fell through, so Lincoln was left with only one option.
“It was terrifying. We didn’t know what we were dealing with,” Honoway said. “We didn’t know what the chances were they would find a match for him. Even if they did, we didn’t know if he would make it through the transplant, so it was the scariest experience of our lives.”
After the blood transfusions, chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplant, Lincoln is now a happy and active four year old, all thanks to an unknown hero.
“This person has just been… our angel,” Honoway said. “We love her and we don’t even know her. We say ‘her’… We have a feeling it’s a woman but we don’t know anything about this person. We don’t know where in the world they live, we don’t know if it’s a man or a woman, we don’t know anything. But all we know is that they are our hero.”
Honoway added that they must wait a minimum of two years before they can meet the donor.
Lincoln’s successful transplant was the reason Honoway and her family were supporting the University of Regina’s “Get Swabbed” event on Monday, to encourage students between the ages of 17 and 35 to get their cheeks swabbed and enter a national stem call database.
“I heard about Erica and Lincoln and I just thought it was amazing how someone just saved his life, and she doesn’t even know who he is or who she is, I just think it’s amazing,” U of R Stem Cell Club president Sylvia Okonofua said. “I felt like if I take up this initiative and actually run drives where people [can get] on the stem cell registry, [it can] help save a life someday.”
“Getting students involved and realizing their impact of their involvement through something like this was one of the main goals,” U of R student engagement co-ordinator Doug O’Brien said. “Another goal of having today’s Get Swabbed initiative was obviously to support the stem cell database for Canada and through the One Match program.”
Approximately 80 students took part in Monday’s Get Swabbed event, and organizers are hoping to increase that number for the next event on Sept. 14.
It’s a simple way to help save a life.
“I hope people realize that they have the opportunity to save someone’s life, imagine what that would feel like,” Honoway said. “You’d get to know forever that you saved another human’s life. It’s pretty special.”
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