After months of searching and extensive publicity campaigns, two cord blood donors have finally been located for Mandi Schwartz ’11, the women’s hockey player battling leukemia, according to a hospital spokesman. The matches just might save her life.
Schwartz, who was initially diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December 2008, underwent 130 days of hospitalization before receiving a clean bill of health in May 2009. But nearly one year later, the 22-year old learned that her cancer had returned, and she entered chemotherapy for the second time in April.
Since then, Schwartz’s family, friends and teammates, along with members of the Yale community, have worked tirelessly to find the crucial cord blood or bone marrow donor she needs for a transplant. Schwartz previously had a “nine-out-of-10” bone marrow donor, but the pairing was risky enough that doctors did not attempt a transplant. Transplants conducted with imperfect bone marrow cell matches may lead to fatal graft versus host (GVH) responses.
The two cord blood donations that have cropped up now are also imperfect matches but are still suitable for Schwartz’s transplant, said Dean Forbes, a spokesman for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a division of the Seattle treatment facility where Schwartz is scheduled to undergo her stem cell transplant.
“Through our usual standard search procedure, we found two cord blood units that are a close match, not a perfect match,” Forbes said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Basically she’ll be undergoing a protocol that we developed for cord blood transplant.”
Schwartz, a native of Saskatchewan, Canada, is currently in Seattle with her parents and her fiancé, Kaylem Prefontaine, preparing for the procedure, which is set to take place Aug. 27 at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Forbes said the date for Schwartz’s procedure is liable to change, adding that “these things are kind of fluid, depending on how things are going.”
Aleca Hughes ’12, Schwartz’s teammate at Yale, said she was excited to hear about the donations, noting that a partially matched cord blood donor is “a lot better” than a nine-out-of-10 bone marrow match.
“We’re all very happy and grateful for everyone in the hockey and Yale communities who has rallied behind Mandi’s cause,” Hughes said. “It’s so rewarding and so comforting knowing all the people that have heard her story and reached out to help. It’s very inspirational.”
More than 1,600 people have joined the National Marrow Donor Program’s “Be the Match” registry as a result of efforts on Schwartz’s behalf, according to a University statement, and more than 2,600 have joined a similar stem cell and marrow network in Canada.
See previous coverage:
“Battling her way back,” Jan. 14
“Match found, miracle needed,” April 22
“Bone marrow drive registers more than 900,” April 22
“NYT, ESPN follow Mandi’s story,” June 16
“Schwartz ’11 supporter faces scrutiny,” Aug. 1