When Hillary McKibbin’s blood test results came in, a lab technologist called her parents and told them to get her to the hospital immediately — she needed a blood transfusion.
Hillary was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called idiopathic aplastic anemia, a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough new blood cells. It causes fatigue, an increased risk of infection, and uncontrollable bleeding. If the six-year-old’s condition worsens, she’ll need a stem cell transplant.
Unwilling to take any chances at finding a stem cell match, Hillary’s mother, Kelly McKibbin, organized two cheek-swabbing events in Ottawa and encouraged young men between the ages of 17 and 35 to attend — a donor demographic that improves patient outcomes.
Record-breaking donor turn-out
More than 630 individuals attended the first event in June — so many that organizers ran out of swab kits. Another 450 people ordered the kits online, 250 attended the second event in July, and three more large events are being held this fall.
“It was quite moving,” says Kelly. “Young men, parents, and students showed up in droves with tears in their eyes, saying, ‘You need help? No problem.’’’ These new donors’ information gets added to the Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry.
As the family’s #StartWithHillary campaign continues to inspire Canadians across the country and all over the world, optimal donors — young males — are encouraged to join the registry. At any given time, Canadian Blood Services is searching for donors on behalf of hundreds of patients from diverse ancestral backgrounds in need of a stem cell donor.
“We want to find a match and help the world while we’re at it,” says Kelly. “We want to raise awareness and inspire people to help Hillary, but also the thousands like her around the world in need of a donor.”