Chatham is a community of people who care about each other. Brian Erb, a Biology teacher in Chatham High School, and his wife, Lauren Gonnella, received the earth-shattering news around Christmas that Jackie, their 5-year-old daughter, a twin, had a rare form of leukemia and was in URGENT need of a bone marrow or stem cell match and transplant to save her life.
On January 9th, Brian’s colleagues from Chatham High School ran a donor match event, “Swab to Save a Life,” and over 1,000 people answered the call. “When you love well, you get loved well in return,” he says. “My colleagues set it up. They love me and I love them. We are very appreciative and hopeful.”
Jackie was an active child, with no red flags. Her parents noticed that she was bruising easily so they had blood tests done. Days later, a bone biopsy followed. The results, JMML, is a rare form of cancer that is harder to treat. “The only cure is a bone marrow transplant,” says Brian. “The reality is there are so many antigens…it makes it complicated to find a match.”
The urgency with JMML is real, since this type of cancer spreads. There are three types of transplants: cord blood transfusions, bone marrow stem cells, and cord blood cells. Bone marrow is the best method.
Only 2% of the U.S. population is enrolled with “Be The Match Registry®”. Finding a match on the registry is Jackie’s best chance for a cure! “If you’re a match, there are no medical bills for the individual,” says Brian. “They take the bone marrow stem cells out…it is an outpatient procedure. You are sore for a day. You don’t need to live in the same state. Your cells get shipped to the recipient.”
What you can do: Join “Be the Match Registry®” at join.bethematch.org/teamjackie or text TEAMJACKIE to 61474. The site notes that “Joining the Be The Match Registry® means volunteering to be listed as a potential blood stem cell donor, ready to save the life of any patient in need of a transplant. You could be someone’s cure. You could literally save a life.”
“For good reason we want to be a part of something more meaningful,” says Brian. “A reminder of who we are in a human way. My default position is hope. This is foundation shattering.”
To stay connected and find other ways to support the family, follow Team Jackie on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/BetheMatch4Jackie