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Hallie’s Heroes run against DBA; the race to find a marrow match continues

Hallie’s Heroes run against DBA; the race to find a marrow match continues

April 07
02:59 2016

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer

@Kyle_Martin35

Since she was just a toddler, 7-year-old Hallie Barnard has been fighting against a rare blood disorder that destroys red blood cells and hinders her immune system. On April 2, runners dressed as their favorite superheroes gathered for a 5K fun-run and swab drive at W.S. Ryan Elementary. 

Hallie shows her excitement as she approaches the end of her 5K run. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

Hallie shows her excitement as she approaches the end of her 5K run. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

Scott Brannam, an Army Reserve career counselor living in Virginia, came to the event from out of town to visit some friends. Not originally planning to run, he joined the race last minute to participate in a cause worth his time.

“How could you pass up an opportunity to support something like this?” he said. The event was organized by non-profit Hallie’s Heroes, a group working with the UNT Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity to assist in research for Hallie’s disorder.

The fraternity of UNT was also on site both running and volunteering, spreading awareness to swab and get swabbed. Sponsors with tables at the event included Mary Kay, the Pampered Chef, Nationwide and Target. Each donated time, money, gift cards and supplies to make the 5K run a success. Others in attendance were stem cell and bone marrow donors, friends, family and members of the Denton community.

Sympathy of a donor

Among the donors table stood Craig Marcho, 49, an employee of Microsoft in Las Colinas who attended the race to speak on behalf of donors. 

“The whole reason I’m here is because about seven years ago, my wife and I registered at a drive just like this at a soccer game in Frisco,” Marcho said. “They were trying to find a match for a soccer player’s wife.”

Bone marrow donor Craig Marcho educates guests on what it means to be a bone marrow donor and what the process is like. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

Bone marrow donor Craig Marcho educates guests on what it means to be a bone marrow donor and what the process is like. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

Five years later, Marcho received the call: he was a match for a 66-year-old male in Paris, France with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (or AML) in need of a stem cell donation.    

Some people have negative ideas of how bone marrow or stem cell transplants happen, with shows like “House” showing huge, terrifying needles tearing into spinal cords, slurping out bone marrow while the donor writhes in pain.

“I sat there and I watched Netflix for three hours,” Marcho said.

Hallie Barnard’s is a different case, and is still in need of a bone marrow transplant. The hope is that once a match is found, the new bone marrow will begin to develop red blood cells and her immune system will recover, leaving her fully cured of DBA.

The 5K race and all of Hallie’s Heroes’ efforts are put forth in hope a match will soon be found, for kids like Hallie all around the globe. 

The process for stem cell transplants, once a donor is found, is not completely unlike giving blood. For five days, donors are administered shots which increase their stem cell count. On the fifth day, the donor is hooked up to a machine and stem cells are extracted into sealed bags to be shipped to an awaiting recipient. The recipient must receive the new stem cells into the body within 24 hours of extraction for the process to work.

And then, it’s just a waiting game.

“There’s a certain point when you’re going through this when they’ll call you and say, ‘Okay, after today you have to do this because if you change your mind, he’s going to die. He’s got nothing–he’s literally waiting,’” Marcho said. “I never had a hesitation. I said, ‘I’m going to do this. I don’t care how bad I feel, I’m going to do it.’”

Marcho found the experience to be wholly emotional, having saved the life of a man thousands of miles away in France.

“The whole time I’m thinking, ‘This guy is going through the worst radiation, the worst chemo, the whole process, laying on a bed near death, waiting for this [the stem cell donation],’” Marcho said. “What’s cool is once they get this, all they do is put an IV [full of donated stem cells] in him and wait. Doctors will say, even today, they don’t know how it works–it just works.”

Family friend Pattie Friz shared a few words on her experience with the Barnard family after the race. She has known them for about two years now, and is known as the “Cookie Lady,” often bringing Hallie and her family homemade cookies.

“Her situation is grave–if she doesn’t get a donor or a transplant, she will die,” Friz said. “And she doesn’t have a lot of time.”

Hallie Barnard, right, and her mother Elyse enjoy the beautiful morning and the company of supportive friends at Hallie’s 5K run fundraiser. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

Hallie Barnard, right, and her mother Elyse enjoy the beautiful morning and the company of supportive friends at Hallie’s 5K run fundraiser. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

Looking forward

Though she is stable at the moment, Hallie’s body will soon reject the medications and steroids she is currently taking, be it within the next few years or sooner.

The reality of her situation is that she has an entire community of firm support behind her, but is still in desperate need of a bone marrow match. Momentum for the cause is growing, and influence is spreading. They are swabbing for #TeamHallieBea often: be it on the Square or on campus actively trying to #SwabDenton.

The fight against DBA is a game of numbers. With every Q-Tip that touches a cheek, anybody could find their match and a life could be spared. 

“She’s a beautiful little girl with an amazing family who not only love her, but love everyone–and they have an open heart for everybody.  They’re great people, and a great family,” Friz said.  “There’s not a day that goes by that I see Hallie that she’s not that small, and it comes from the upbringing she’s had.” 

Featured Image: All of the participants at Hallie’s fundraiser come together to celebrate a successful day. Tristan Miller | Staff Photographer

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