Savannah Hill stem cell donor drive: Windsor family hopes to find match for toddler with leukemia

Savannah Hill, battling a rare form of leukemia, is in need of a stem cell donor match. via GoFundMe

Lawrence Hill is emotional discussing what it would mean for his family if a donor can’t be found for his baby daughter, Savannah, who’s battling a rare form of leukemia.

“…You’ll have the worst discussion of your life. At that point, it’s just basically talking about how to make her comfortable.”

The Windsor man is hoping a stem cell donor drive organized for Saturday in London will draw crowds or that people will head online to register as stem cell donors with Canadian Blood Services.

Hill said that for a stem cell transplant, they’re looking for a donor that can match 10 points of 18-month-old Savannah Hill’s genetic makeup so that her body is less likely to reject the transplant.

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“We have to have that match. She needs that match.”

Savannah Hill has been fighting a rare bone marrow failure since late September 2019, when her parents brought her for a blood test after noticing abnormal bruising all over her body.

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When the results came in, she and her family were airlifted to London Health Sciences Centre’s Children’s Hospital as doctors said she may have leukemia.

“I would say [that for] roughly two months we had no diagnosis,” said Hill.
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“We just watched all the negative effects from the cancer take a toll — she stopped walking, didn’t want to eat anymore, had fevers for weeks and we’re talking fevers that are like life-threatening to an adult.”

On December 4, after a third bone marrow biopsy, Savannah was diagnosed with Acute megakaryocytic leukemia. She continues to undergo chemotherapy and weekly platelet and blood transfusions as she awaits a donor match.

“Every time she feels better and her cells start to develop and produce normally, then it’s time for chemo again,” said Hill. “But, as I said, through the whole thing she smiles, laughs, and tries to act her normal self.”

Lawrence Hill and his daughter Savannah at LHSC’s Children’s Hospital. via GoFundMe

Canadians can register online to become stem cell donors, but for those able to travel to White Oaks Mall on Saturday, Feb. 8, Canadian Blood Services will be testing for matches in the mall close to the Shoppers Drug Mart. Donors between 17 and 35 years of age are being sought and the drive will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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A GoFundMe has also been organized to help “relieve the financial burden of things like the cost of transportation, nutrition, hospital residence, parking, help paying for rent and much much more.”

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— with files from Jaclyn Carbone and Andrew Graham.

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