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Yarmouth youngster hosting stem cell drive to help find match for young friend who has leukemia


YARMOUTH, NS – Given the amount of time he spends at the IWK Health Centre, a lot of Joshua Cochrane’s friends are young people like him who are living with illnesses.

But they’re never in the battle alone and when Joshua can help them, he does.

This time the Grade 5 student is helping his 14-month-old friend Marlie Curwin, who has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.

Joshua is helping to host a OneMatch Stem Cell Drive in Yarmouth April 26 and 27. People aged 17 to 35 are being encouraged to attend the drive to see if they are a potential stem cell match for the little girl.

The process is easy – one simply has to get their cheek swabbed.

Joshua’s friend Marlie, from Sackville, N.B., has acute myeloid leukemia. She was diagnosed in January and has been living at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax for months. She has undergone three rounds of chemotherapy. Her family hopes to find a match before she needs to undergo a fourth round. That’s what Joshua and his family are hoping for as well.

Stem cell drives have been held, or are being held, to try and find a match for the little girl.

The drive in Yarmouth, at the NSCC Burridge Campus, is being put on by Canadian Blood Services and coincides with a blood donor clinic happening at the same time.

The times are 1-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, and 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27.

Joshua and Marlie met in January. She’s very cute and “extremely snuggly,” says Joshua. Joshua, who has autism and other health issues, describes the help his young friend needs.

“Chemo makes you feel sick and your body hurts and your hair falls out. When chemo doesn’t work you need a stem cell transplant. Good cells are put into your body to help fight the evil cells,” he says, likening the good cells to police officers who catch the bad cells.

While this month’s drive is aimed at finding a match for Marlie, there is the possibility that matches found through these drives could help others as well. The swabs collected are sent away for screening. If matches are found, the person would be contacted and asked to undergo some blood work.

“But you’re never committed,” says Joshua’s mother, Ann Harrington, explaining people are free to decline at any point. “But if there’s a match, we hope people don’t have a change of heart.”

Joshua is encouraging people to come to the drive in Yarmouth.

“They could really help,” he says, flashing a smile similar to the one his friend Marlie always gives to him.

As for Marlie’s family, they’re touched by what is happening.

“Josh is a remarkable boy with a huge heart. He is an inspiration. Though he has struggles of his own, he has so much love and care to provide other children who are sick,” says Marlie’s mother Erin Curwin. “Thank you Josh from the bottom of my heart for wanting to help my baby girl.”

5 things to know

1. Stem cells are immature cells that can become red blood cells (which carry oxygen), white blood cells (which fight infection) or platelets (which help stop bleeding).

2. The OneMatch registry seeks people between 17 and 35 years old. Because a person's best chance of finding a matching donor is within his or her own ethnic group, it is important that donors reflect ethnic diversity.

3. Even with millions of donors on registries worldwide, a perfect stem cell match isn't always available so it’s important for people to participate.

4. People are not charged for the testing or donation process. OneMatch reimburses any expenses incurred as a result of donating stem cells.

5. If you can’t attend a drive in person, you can register to donate stem cells at blood.ca/stem-calls. You can receive a kit and send back a swab sample.

(Source: Canadian Blood Services)

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