Family ties: Trinity woman with leukemia receives stem cells from brother

CHAPEL HILL Kathy DeClue loves her youngest brother Don Hammed for many reasons. These days, Dons selflessness is at the top of her list.

Don donated the stem cells I received during my transplant, said Kathy, 57, of Trinity, in Randolph County. It was a favor I never thought Id have to ask for. But I would have done the same for him if he needed me to.

Kathy needed the stem cell transplant to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a cancer of the blood cells. For some CLL patients, the disease progresses slowly and they may never need treatment. For others, like Kathy, the disease was on fast-forward and required aggressive medical attention.

From the start, we knew that the CLL was behaving like a high-risk disease and was resistant to just about all the therapies we have, said James M. Coghill, MD, assistant professor of hematology and oncology at the UNC School of Medicine, a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the leader of Kathys health care team.

The stem cell transplant on April 25 was the best option for trying to get her disease under control, and Kathy had the luxury of three siblings who were a perfect match to donate stem cells. Shes had a supportive family every step of the way. Im sure they would be willing to donate bone marrow again if she needed it.

Besides Don, 46, of Kernersville, N.C., brother Butch Hammed, 56, and sister Rose Tucker, 60, both of Roanoke, Va., were perfect matches. Having multiple matches is unusual as most patients, at best, have a one-in-four chance of getting a perfect match, Dr. Coghill said.

Don got the nod because he was young, healthy and had never been pregnant, Dr. Coghill said. Generally, we try to go with males as donors because female donors who have been pregnant develop antibodies that can increase the chances of graft vs. host disease or rejection.

Rose, the mother of three children, jumped, cried and screamed when she found out she was a perfect match for her sister and her best friend.

I wanted to be a match and her donor so bad, and I was really disappointed when they went with Don, Rose said. They told me Id have enough to do as her caregiver, and as it turned out, I did.

Rose, who was laid off from her child day care job last year, came to Chapel Hill and tended to Kathys every need during the preparations for the transplant and the 100 days post-transplant that Kathy was required to stay at SECU Family House.

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Family ties: Trinity woman with leukemia receives stem cells from brother

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