is the only hospital in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk that offers bone marrow transplantation, according to Chief of Staff Dr. Arthur Klein. Fourteen-year-old Hunter Haymore is the first recipient of non-related bone marrow for sickle cell anemia to take advantage of this service that the hospital offers and she's thankful for it.
Haymore was born with sickle cell anemia and has been treated at Cohen's basically since she was born, her mother, Donna Haymore, said. In that time, Hunter had two strokes at ages six and seven and Donna Haymore noted that Hunter's family lived in constant worry.
"At the time, there was no guarantee that she wouldn’t have a stroke again," Donna Haymore said.
When Hunter was younger, bone marrow transplants were being publicized but it seemed to be only for people with siblings who were a good match and Hunter's an only child. Though Eric Perry, Hunter's father, said that the couple thought about having another child so that Hunter could have a suitable donor, they ultimately decided not to go that route.
Cohen's has been conducting a trial with 20 patients so far who have received unrelated bone marrow transplants; Hunter is the first recipient. Dr. Joel Brochstein, associate chief of cellular therapy, explained that the doctors are blinded as to how the patients are doing, but added that the protocol would be stopped if several patients had less than desirable outcomes and therefore the program should be doing well.
Hunter can't meet her donor for a year, which is standard policy with these donations, but after that year, her mother said that she would like to meet the donor and Hunter expressed her gratitude to her donor, saying that she appreciated his/her donation.
The word cured was used to describe Hunter's condition during the conference, but the doctors won't be completely sure that she's been cured for another six to eight months. After her surgery, Hunter's blood levels will be monitored and her medication levels may be changed, but Dr. Brochstein hopes that after six months she will no longer be on medication.
For Hunter, this transplant surgery means returning to school, which Donna Haymore described as her favorite place to be. It means that her dyslexia, which was caused by the sickle cell anemia may be cured or at least it will not get worse, noted Dr. Brochstein. And it means that Hunter can get back to cheerleading. Hunter told New Hyde Park Patch that she was a cheerleader before she had her surgery and that the group was just starting to learn how to do handstands.
“So now I’ve gotta learn how to do a handstand," Hunter said.
Her father noted that being cured of sickle cell anemia and no longer needing monthly transfusions and many doctors visits means that Hunter can make more commitments. Hunter is currently committed to either being a teacher or a pediatric hematology nurse.
“I know how it feels to be a kid in a hospital and I wouldn’t want another kid to go through what I went through," she said, noting that she did not like being stuck with needles as a child.
All of these aspirations were made possible by someone that the Haymore family doesn't know who decided to become part of the bone marrow donor registry. Part of the reason for the press conference at Cohen's was to raise awareness to the need for more people, particularly of different ethnic groups, to become part of the registry. Dr. Brochstein said people who receive unrelated bone marrow transplants have a better chance of thriving after the transplant if the donor is of the same racial mix as the recipient. He called for people to join the registry, which can be done by going to www.marrow.org or if you want more information from the hospital, you can call 718-470-3611.