Brother in line to donate bone marrow

By Gene Sears
Posted 7/28/09

    ‘Most people,” Michelle Hernandez says, “when they hear about aplastic anemia, don’t think it’s a severe disorder, they think ‘Oh, let her eat …

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Brother in line to donate bone marrow


    ‘Most people,” Michelle Hernandez says, “when they hear about aplastic anemia, don’t think it’s a severe disorder, they think ‘Oh, let her eat some liver or take some pills and she’ll be OK.’”

    The chances are good her 12-year-old daughter, Arianna, will be “OK.”  The cure for what’s ailing her won’t come from pills, though, but through a transplant of her older brother Michael’s donated bone marrow, which she is scheduled to receive Aug. 6.

    Arianna was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, which lowers the counts of all three blood cell types, about four months ago. The illness followed what appeared to be a slight cold, but instead of bouncing back, the normally active Arianna got weaker.

    “It was scary,” Michelle said.  “She got really yellow. We thought maybe it was hepatitis or a liver problem.”  

    Finally, on a day Arianna went with her classmates on a field trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, her doctor’s office called with the results of blood tests, saying it was urgent she be taken to Children’s Hospital. Michelle, and Arianna’s father, Teddy, quickly complied. Further testing pinpointed the problem.

    The family was told the cure could come from a compatible bone marrow transplant. Knowing that there’s a 25 percent chance a sibling would be a match, the entire family was tested.

    “We were preparing for the worst,” Michelle said.

    Her two middle siblings matched.  Michael, a 22-year-old who lives in Brighton, was a fit, and plans began for the transplant.

    Arianna attended Overland Trail  Middle School until the effects of the illness, fatigue, nosebleeds, terrible bruising and a heightened susceptibility to transmittable diseases and injury kept her home. Her veins were collapsing, so a central line was put into her chest for treatments to be administered. Chemotherapy, the first step to the transplant, is slated for July 31.

    Arianna will most likely remain in the hospital for about six weeks, until her immune system recharges. Even when she comes home, Michelle said, precautions, such as masks, will be needed to keep her safe. She’ll be home-schooled, most likely until the end of the year.

    Michelle says the process of the transplant was explained to her in mechanics terms: “They said it’s like jumping one car to the next.”

    Teddy and Michelle and their extended family have jumped into raising community awareness. One of their first steps is organizing a blood drive to benefit Children’s patients, and they have a busy list of fundraisers. They have insurance, but aren’t sure how much of the procedure it will cover. Since they’ve been spending time at Children’s Hospital, Michelle said, they’ve seen how a family’s financial resources can quickly be drained, so they want to help parents of other Children’s patients. They are starting with an Indian Taco dinner Friday, and fundraisers are scheduled to continue through October.

Contact MetroWest Staff Writer Gene Sears at 303-659-2522 Ext.217, or e-mail


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