Linda Leatherdale

Financial Commentator

Little Austin needs a transplant

0327TS0MH013I have met an angel on the face of this earth.
His name is Austin, the 18-month-old great nephew of Art Saccoccia, a custom home builder who owns Sky Homes.
Little Austin desperately needs to find an angel to help save his life. This sweet boy has been diagnosed with a rare immunodeficiency disease called Chronic Granulomatous Disease and he needs a bone marrow transplant.
Problem is no match has been found on the bone marrow registry that operates globally and in Canada is run by Canadian Blood Services’ One Match. 
A patient of Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Austin is being kept alive by antibiotics, anti-fungal medication and steroids. Both his parents and his brother sadly were not a match. So, the clock ticks as he waits for that angel.
“This is the toughest thing our family has been through. Austin is so full of life and he deserves a chance,” says Saccoccia, whose family and friends rallied to form Team Austin (  “Every day we pray a match can be found.”
This story hits very close to my heart, as my own daughter Skye, a childhood blood cancer survivor, relapsed a few years ago and the doctors at Princess Margaret Hospital told us only a bone marrow transplant would save her life. We wept, as fear of losing her became so real. But there are angels.
One was Skye’s older brother, also Austin, who was first to line up to be tested. We celebrated when we were told he was a 9-out-of-10 match. But then the doctors gave us more good news. One Match found two 10-out-10 matches.
We all had frayed nerves as Skye underwent chemo and radiation in the countdown to her transplant. Her boyfriend Tristan was always by her side. One day during a round of chemo, he surprised Skye with a diamond ring.  She said “yes.” We wept tears of joy. Transplant day arrived and we nervously watched as they injected her with her donor’s bone marrow through a simple procedure, similar to a blood transfusion.
The next morning by her bedside was a note from her donor, signed anonymously. The donor was praying for great results. We wept again.
Skye was getting stronger and stronger, and the notes from the donor kept coming. I read them aloud on the Roy Green Show on the Corus Radio network across Canada, where I am a regular guest every Saturday.
One day, Roy called me.  “Linda, Skye’s donor just contacted me,” he said.  Somehow, the reach of radio and the power of the Internet led Gayle Seidler to us. 
On Roy’s radio show, we were united with Gayle, who told her story of how she joined the Be A Match registry in the States in the 1990s in an attempt to help a little girl from her hometown. 
For years, Gayle never heard a word, until a call came to help save Skye’s life. She jumped at the chance.
“It is such an honor to be part of saving a life,” says Gayle, who travelled with her husband from West Virginia to attend Skye and Tristan’s wedding at Ridge Berry Farm in Niagara. 
There was not a dry eye in the house as Skye, in her speech, thanked Gayle for her kindness and generosity for so willingly becoming a donor.
Now Gayle is hoping for a happy ending for little Austin. She also wants to dispel the myth that becoming a donor is painful. 
“The first thing everyone asks me is ‘doesn’t that hurt?’ I would like people to know that it does not,” she said.
The procedure is simple. To register, it’s a simple cotton swab of the mouth. One Match is looking for donors aged 17 to 35.
If a person is a match and agrees to be a donor, it’s a non-surgical procedure where blood is removed from the arm, bone marrow cells are captured and the blood is returned to the donor. Only in rare cases is surgery required.
“It’s all worth it,” says Gayle.  “I will be praying for Austin.  I sincerely hope that he ends up with a great story to tell.”

Updated: March 30, 2016 — 7:55 pm

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