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Lymphoma and Pets
Big Sister's Bone Marrow Saves the Lives of Her Little Brothers
One pediatric diagnosis of Burkitt's lymphoma in any family is overwhelming. Two would be devastating. But three seems unimaginable.
Yet that is what happened to the Jenkins family of Atlanta, according to a recent Fox News story.
According to the story, three very young Jenkins boys – ranging in age at diagnosis from 2 to 6 – were diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma all within the span of a few years. Since Burkitt's is not regarded as a genetic disease, oncologists at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta were baffled – until it was recalled that a rare genetic immune disorder known as XLP could cause it.
All three boys – Will, John, and 2-year-old Matthew – had inherited the disorder. And all three, like tens of thousands of Americans every year, desperately needed a hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Their problem was the that all patient face: finding a suitable donor.
And that's where big sister Julia, in second grade at the time, stepped in.
She turned out to be a perfect match for two of her brothers, and donated bone marrow while they underwent intense chemotherapy and radiation to wipe out their own immune systems. While the graft took for one of them, it didn't take for another, forcing Julia to donate again, although the second time she donated circulating blood stem cells.
Meanwhile, a donor for the youngest child – for whom Julia was not a match – was found in Texas.
Three years have passed, and all three boys are in good health.
Julia tells Fox News, "Now, I'm not that scared of needles."
She is, however, a lifesaver.