Peterborough family seeks to raise awareness of stem cell donation in memory of son

Click to play video: 'Family speaks out about importance of stem cell donation, in memory of their son, Harrison'
Family speaks out about importance of stem cell donation, in memory of their son, Harrison
WATCH: A Peterborough family is hoping to raise awareness around stem cell donation in memory of their son – Feb 8, 2019

A Peterborough family is speaking out about the importance of stem cell donation after a stranger’s transplant helped their son, Harrison McKinnon.

Harrison was born on Sept. 15, 2014, but just after he turned one, the young boy got very sick.

“He was ultimately diagnosed with lymphoma — anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. It’s a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which we were told is the good kind,” said Harrison’s mother, Shannon McKinnon.

Harrison went through a year and half of treatment, and in March of 2017, he had a stem cell transplant.

“He was matched to this anonymous donor so he was able to get the stem cell transplant, but unfortunately part of the process is that they eradicate the immune system so that the body doesn’t reject the stem cells, and that made him susceptible to infection,” McKinnon explained.

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Harrison’s immune system got very weak, and he died of a bacterial infection in June 2017.

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READ MORE: Alberta woman shares stem cell donation experience to raise awareness

But while Harrison is no longer here, his legacy lives on. On Thursday, the Peterborough Regional Health Centre and Canadian Blood Services organized a stem cell swab session in Harrison’s memory.

“They will mail you a self-swab kit. You do your cheek swabs: there’s four very long Q-tips, you’ll rub the inside of your cheek, send it in the sealed envelope back to us and then you are part of the registry,” said Debbi Barfoot, territory manager of Canadian Blood Services.

If you are someone’s match, it could have a far-reaching impact.

READ MORE: ‘Needle in a haystack’: Stem cell drive seeks match for man with two rare forms of cancer

“Basically, anyone in the world who has this unique marker profile could (be) matched to someone in this country and need their stem sells, basically to try and save their lives,” McKinnon said.

Harrison’s family is also organizing blood donor clinics on Feb. 19, 21 and 22 at Canadian Blood Services on George Street in Peterborough. They urge everyone to come out and donate and help honour little Harrison’s legacy.


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