Family, friends seek help for Knoxville girl with leukemia

Family, friends seek help for Knoxville girl with leukemia

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Ten-year-old Anna Martin was diagnosed last month with leukemia. Ten-year-old Anna Martin was diagnosed last month with leukemia.
"You can potentially save someone's life," said Anna's mother, Kristen. "You can potentially save someone's life," said Anna's mother, Kristen.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A little girl in Knoxville needs lifesaving help.

Ten-year-old Anna Martin was diagnosed last month with leukemia. A bone marrow transplant is her best chance for survival. 

"It is really, really tough to wrap our heads around," said Anna's mother, Kristen. "She was perfectly healthy and one day our world just kind of turned upside down."

On May 6, after a slight fever that wouldn't go away, blood tests revealed Anna has acute myeloid leukemia.

"It's a blood and bone marrow cancer," Anna explained.

She was immediately admitted to East Tennessee Children's Hospital for chemotherapy. 

"It made me feel sick a little bit, but not that much," Anna said.

After 37 days, she was allowed to come home. 

"I wanted to see my house," Anna said.

It will be a short stay. She is due back at the hospital for a second round of chemo within the next week. 

"I want to be able to stay home with my family," Anna said.

Doctors hope a very high dose of chemotherapy will destroy the leukemia, but it will also wipe out Anna's bone marrow. That's why she needs to find a matching bone marrow donor.

"They like to look for a sibling match first, and so Ryan and Caroline were both tested. They were not a match for her, so the next step is to look through the national bone marrow donor registry," Kristen said. 

The family's church is hosting a registry drive on Saturday, hoping to find a match not only for Anna, but for the thousands of others who need one too.

"You can potentially save someone's life. It's really never hit this close to home. Sitting in the situation that we're in, there's really no words to describe what it feels like, and there are a lot of us, so the more people on the registry the better," Kristen said.

"It will make lots of kids like me be able to have a match," Anna added.

Joining the registry is free and painless. It's just a cotton swab of cheek cells. We asked Anna's doctor to explain the actual bone marrow donation process, which he says is usually an outpatient procedure.

"It's done under general anesthesia, so it is not painful, but of course it carries the risk like any other procedure that is done under anesthesia, the risk of anesthesia and the risk of any other surgical procedure," explained Dr. Shahid Malik, a pediatric oncologist at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. "But the marrow is obtained by putting a needle into the bone marrow, which is in the center of the bone, typically from the hip bone."

Dr. Malik said there is usually some soreness after the procedure that can be treated with pain medication. 

The donor usually goes home the same day, then returns the next day to have the dressing removed.

For the patient, however, a bone marrow transplant is an intensive, high-risk therapy that requires prolonged hospitalization.

The registry drive in Anna's honor is this Saturday, June 18. It will be held at Hardin Valley Church of Christ, 11515 Hardin Valley Road, in Knoxville, from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Anna is hoping to make an appearance, if she's not in the hospital. 

Dr. Malik said the survival rate for patients with acute myeloid leukemia is just over 50 percent with treatment like a bone marrow transplant.

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