Successful stem cell transplant prompts Edmonton-area family to plea for more Aboriginal donors

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WATCH ABOVE: A little boy from Enoch Cree Nation will soon be celebrating the fifth anniversary of a successful stem cell transplant. The occasion has his family calling for more people of Aboriginal descent to become donors. Julia Wong reports – Jun 29, 2019

An Edmonton-area family is encouraging more people of Aboriginal descent to become stem cell donors, as they approach the five year anniversary of their son’s successful transplant.

Drayson Morin-Rucchin, now 11, was born with a rare blood disorder called fanconi anemia, and there were worries it would eventually lead to leukemia.

READ MORE: Young Edmonton boy searching for rare stem cell donor

Drayson is of Aboriginal descent, and only a small percentage of donors registered on the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network are from that ethnic group.

The Enoch Cree Nation community held a stem cell drive in 2013 in hopes of finding a donor for Drayson and months later, there was a successful match.

Drayson and his family went to Calgary for the transplant, though initially not everything went according to plan. During his time in hospital, Drayson fell into a coma for 42 days and suffered a stroke and, worse, the transplant did not appear to be successful.

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“We were told that nothing was working,” said mother Jenny Morin.

“Nothing was taking. He was still needing blood and platelets so when we moved back [to Edmonton], that’s what we were doing. As soon as we moved back, not even a week later, his numbers started coming up. Something just happened, it was weird.”

Morin said Drayson is now 100 per cent in remission; he needs to get a check up every six months but that routine will soon be an annual event.

“His doctors were happy and said, ‘Well we fixed you. We don’t know how but we fixed you,’” she said.

It’s a reality that contrasts starkly with what the family faced five years ago, and Morin said it has taken a lot off of her.

“When we went to Calgary and everything went wrong, he went into the coma, I wasn’t sure if we were going to come back with him,” she said.

“He couldn’t play as a little boy. He couldn’t go play outside with the rest of the kids. He would just look outside and just watch them. This year is actually his first year being in baseball so it was really good to watch him.”

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Drayson said he feels good physically now and enjoys playing in Pokemon tournaments and enjoys soccer and baseball.

In May, the 11-year-old even got the chance to meet and present Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuk hockey player in the NHL, with an award at an event organized by Enoch Cree Nation councillors.

READ MORE: Jordin Tootoo, first Inuk NHLer, retires to spend time giving back to Indigenous communities

“They wanted to introduce Enoch’s little warrior to Jordin Tootoo so he presented [Tootoo] with a medallion and got to meet him,” Morin said.

“It was very exciting for Drayson. He was very happy when he told me about it.”

Morin is encouraging other Aboriginals to get involved with swab drives.

“They should see if they’re a match. It seems like ever since him, I’ve seen and heard about a lot of people going through the same thing now,” she said.

The donor may be anonymous but Morin is hoping that may one day change.

“How do we try to meet the donor now? If he’s willing to, I would love to meet him because he saved our son’s life,” she said.

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To sign up to become a donor, or for more information, visit OneMatch’s website.

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