Paying it Forward with 9Health Fair

Photo by Ellen Jaskol
Sometimes in life, things get tough and it seems that all we can do is hope for a miracle. No matter how big or small, it’s that miracle that can make all the difference. Christina got the miracle she had desperately wished for – and then made a promise to pay it forward.
She had been fighting Lupus for a number of years and had it under control, for the most part. However, about five years ago, she began to feel more fatigued than normal, started to feel weak, and eventually wasn’t able to keep food down. This went on for about 8 months; she visited many doctors who thought it was her Lupus acting up, until one physician figured out what was making Christina so sick.
An Unexpected Diagnosis
On June 7, 2010, she was diagnosed with Leukemia. She hadn’t been making any red or white blood cells, which is why she couldn’t hold food down when she ate. They began chemotherapy, but after three treatments, she went septic. It was so bad that even after five days of antibiotics; she couldn’t breathe or function on her own.
Her family and friends came to say their goodbyes; they believed she was not going to make it more than a day. But then, she took a breath on her own and her organs started to function by themselves. At this point, the doctors knew she couldn’t handle anymore chemotherapy. A bone marrow transplant was her only option.
Right before Christina went on a waiting list, they found out that genetically, she is Hispanic. To her surprise, there was less than a 10 percent chance of finding a match. She and her husband remained very optimistic, and it was then that she promised herself if a match was found and she made it through this, she would do her part to educate the ethnically diverse population about bone marrow donations, so others would have a better chance of finding a donor.
Without having to wait too long, her miracle came in the form of not just one donor, but two! On November 15, 2010, she received her transplant.
Once the blood stem cell transplant was complete, she began a 30 day waiting period to make sure everything was functioning properly. Those 30 days came and went without a problem!  Christina now lives a very active life. Although she doesn’t have as much energy as she would like, she is still able to walk her six dogs daily, chase after her three children and work two jobs. She seems to be doing just fine.
Help Arrived for Many
Five years later, she is now cancer-free and has stuck to her promise. Since she recovered, she started a non-profit organization called Make It Happen USA, a stem-cell/bone marrow registry. It is all volunteer-based and has helped coordinate over 4,800 matches so far.
While getting the word out about her organization and the need for donors, Christina realized that 9Health Fair would be a great way to share information and find potential donors. She contacted 9Health Fair and created a partnership that is proving to be very successful. By taking swabs at 48 spring 9Health Fairs in 2014, over 1,900 potential donors were added to the stem-cell/bone marrow registry. Of those 1,900 potential donors, six people have been matched with patients!
Christina fought her own battle and won, and now she is helping others combat theirs as well. Make it Happen USA will be at a number of 9Health Fairs again this spring. Find out if you are a bone marrow match through a simple cheek swab!
Check our website for a list of spring fair locations and dates.