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USC students hold bone marrow transplant drive for siblings

April 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A bone marrow transplant for a brother and sister with a rare blood disease may be their only hope for survival.

The odds may be stacked against the pair, but students at the University of Southern California hope to change that.

They're getting fellow USC students to swab their mouths to see if they could be a bone marrow match for 20-month-old Anaiya Skipper and her 5-month-old brother Xander. The two were born having a rare blood disease called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, also known as HLH.

Mother Nicole Skipper said she and her husband are the carriers of the gene, and that's how their kids got it.

"With my daughter, we didn't know what she had until my son was born," said Skipper. "We knew she was sick. She spent the first 9 months of her life basically living in a hospital. Because we couldn't figure out what this was, we couldn't get her to come home.

A bone marrow transplant is what Anaiya and Xander need to survive.

"Basically what this is, is their immune system does not function like ours," said Skipper. "Any virus, bacteria, anything, they will catch right away. Pretty much each time it is very possible that it could be fatal for them.

Skipper said since her children are bi-racial it makes it more difficult to find a match.

"It makes it ten times harder to find a match for them," said Skipper. "So as of now they do not have a match for bone marrow. Bone marrow transplant for them is the only potential cure for them to live a full term life."

The campus community service group, Trojan Knights, heard of the Skippers' story and helped organize a drive. There were plenty of volunteers taking the time to submit a swab of their DNA.

"I just heard about the two kids and I felt that I should help with this," said Davante Sanders. "It is free, it doesn't take any time. So I figured I should do it."

"What brought me into it was that we are all human," said Tona Elizarraraz. "The race part doesn't really matter to me so long as I can help anyone. Make a difference in this world. That generally is it."

Skipper is keeping her fingers crossed that a match will be found. The results of the swabs could take as little as two weeks.

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