A young life saved by a donor

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Abigail Wise
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Here is a message from a strong-minded, beautiful little girl who has experienced so much in her nine years of life; "become a bone marrow donor, because it saved my life."

Karina Sones, daughter of Col. Dwight Sones, 436 Airlift Wing vice commander, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in February 2005. She was just 4 years old. The symptoms were only a slight fever and pale skin. Colonel Sones and his wife Dana were shocked to find out it was leukemia.

Karina fought the disease and beat it after 28 days of chemotherapy. Prior to the treatment her bone marrow was 98 percent cancerous, Mrs. Sones explained, but after the treatment there was no sign of cancerous cells.

In June 2006, Karina suffered a relapse, leaving a bone marrow transplant as her only chance for survival. While the National Marrow Donor Program searched its registry to find a match for her, she continued to weaken.

Colonel Sones said that out of the approximately 10 million donors in the national bone marrow registry, not one of them was the right match for her. The Sones' wondered if there is a perfect bone marrow donor out there who isn't yet in the registry.

Mrs. Sones said that just by chance, umbilical cord blood was anonymously donated which closely matched Karina's needs. Umbilical cord blood can be frozen and saved when a baby is born, or can be donated at the time of birth.

Cord blood contains stem cells which can grow into healthy blood cells and provide just enough stem cells for a small child's transplant.

Karina's bone marrow was killed in preparation for her transplant. During this time and after the transplant, before her body developed new white blood cells, Karina recalls being in a small, hospital room with jungle animals painted on the walls. She was isolated in this room for nearly 50 days. 

Because the donor was not a perfect match, her new white blood cells continue to attack her old immune system leaving her skin red and inflamed. This is an effect of Graft-Versus-Host disease.

It has been a continuous three-year battle for Karina and the Sones family following the transplant, but they are a strong unit of support for her.

"We collect golf balls that are left near our backyard and sell them to golfers during the day, and we give all the money to help people like Karina," said Braydin.

Karina's two brothers Braydin, 10, and Torin, 7, have a goal of collecting $500 from their golf ball sales. They have collected $350 so far and will donate all of their proceeds to Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children where Karina currently receives medical treatment.

Karina's medical struggles have not held back her mind. She has a strong voice and knows what she wants to say. Her favorite class in school is math, favorite restaurant is Olive Garden and she enjoys making beaded necklaces for friends.

When asked what she'd like to be when she grows up, she replied, "A doctor. I want to be a heart doctor."

Although her understanding of the world seems to be very adult-like, she is still a child at heart. The thing she said she would like to do most is go on a trip. 

"I want to go to Disney World, and I'm going to be Cinderella and my mom will be Snow White,"
she said.

"This kind of thing really helps you realize how important every day is," said Mrs. Sones, "it makes you appreciate..."

"Life." Braydin chimed in.