Advertisement

Woman's struggle with leukemia leads to local registry drive for Be The Match

June 23, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Waynesboro teenager Courtney Sprenkle-Shelly learned a lot about bone marrow in the years she fought leukemia, but one day she posed a question about it to her mother.

“She said, ‘Why don’t we ever have drives?’” recalled her mother, April Sprenkle.

The pair decided to hold a bone marrow donor registry drive, but Courtney died before that could happen. April Sprenkle continued with the plan and, on Sunday, welcomed each person arriving to a drive being held at Waynesboro’s South Potomac Street Fire Hall.

Those close to Courtney described the registry drive for Be The Match as something that mirrored the girl’s spirit.

“She really cared about people,” April Sprenkle said.

Courtney was in her senior year of high school when she started to complain of bruises and bloody noses just days before a previously scheduled physical. Results from a blood test done during that physical immediately sent the family to Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center, where the 17-year-old was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.

Courtney had her first bone marrow transplant in April 2011 with a donation from her younger sister. Bone marrow is tissue inside some bones.

Courtney gained enough strength after the transplant to attend graduation from Waynesboro Area Senior High School just weeks later, then relapsed and underwent a second bone marrow transplant in April 2012. The outgoing young woman, who loved art, relapsed a second time that fall and got a virus as she was receiving chemotherapy and donor cells.

She died Dec. 2, 2012, at age 19, less than a month after Hershey Medical Center staff hosted a wedding for her and her fiancé, Scott Shelly.

April Sprenkle contacted Be The Match through its website, http://bethematch.org. Individuals in good health between the ages of 18 and 44 were eligible to submit a cheek swab during the drive to join the registry for the coming decades.

Aimee Haskew of Carlisle, Pa., was listed in Be The Match’s registry for 11 years before being contacted and donating bone marrow earlier this year. She donated through a peripheral blood stem cells method that is similar to donating blood.

“I never had any question in my mind I would donate,” Haskew said.

Through Be The Match, Haskew will receive three updates about the recipient of her donation. That person can choose whether to have direct contact with her after a year has passed.

Haskew said most bone marrow donations now are being done through the method she experienced, rather than the traditional surgical method of inserting a needle into the pelvic bone. She said she felt completely recovered 26 hours after the donation.

“I thought being through the process, I could share my story,” she said of her reason for volunteering with Be The Match, an organization that connects patients and donors.

April Sprenkle said she was unsure how many people to expect at the drive, which also featured a fundraising bake sale and yard sale hosted by her daughter, Taylor Sprenkle.

Waynesboro resident Amie Anderson learned about the registry drive where she works. Anderson lost her grandmother to cancer and wanted to do something to help other people facing serious illnesses.

Anderson said she did not have any misgivings about registering at Sunday’s drive.

“It’s a cheek swab. That’s easy,” she said. “We’ll worry about the rest of it if I’m a match for someone.”

Chastity Kalathas of Chambersburg, Pa., is no stranger to life-saving donations. She donated a kidney in December 2011.

“When I woke up, it was the greatest day of my life,” she said, tearing up at the memory.

Kalathas’ kidney went to a patient in Maine through a program that connected six people that day. Her brother, Shawn Fraker of Shippensburg, Pa., needed a kidney and received one from a matching donor because of his sister’s participation in the program.

Kalathas needed to wait a year after the kidney removal before she could register Sunday to donate bone marrow.

“This was the least I could do,” she said.

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|