Cheek swabbing clinic seeks bone marrow for Wayne Bryan

December 14, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Just a few short months ago, Wayne Bryan was receiving outpatient chemotherapy when he needed a blood transfusion.

“One day, the nurse was hooking [the blood] up to him and she looked at the label and said, ‘Oh, no.’” recalls Wayne’s wife Lori, adding she initially thought something was wrong with the bag. “But,” she said, “this blood came all the way from Alberta. It doesn’t say much for our resources here in Ontario.’”

Yesterday, Wayne and Lori did something about that, hosting a cheek-swabbing clinic at Dufferin Child and Family Services in Orangeville.  The couple hopes to find a bone marrow match for Wayne and countless others on wait lists looking for a match as well.

The swab drive ran from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and was held in conjunction with One Match and Canadian Blood Services.

One year ago this month, the Bryan family, who live in Mulmur, learned Wayne had been diagnosed with leukemia. He went into hospital on Christmas Eve and started his treatment on Christmas Day. Leukemia patients often find themselves in hospital for a month where they receive chemotherapy for a few days and then spend the rest of the month “transfusion dependent” to get blood count numbers up to where they should be after chemo knocks them down.

“We did achieve remission and we thought that would be it,” says Lori, a native of Shelburne. “With the kind of cancer Wayne has, 70 per cent of the people go on to live their lives and never have to worry about leukemia again. But, there is another portion that relapses after two years.”

Sadly, it was found quite quickly that Wayne was in the latter camp.

Wayne went for his first follow-up bone marrow biopsy this past September and indicators were found that his cancer had returned. What followed was a further 34 days in hospital over the fall, under heavier chemo, which knocked his blood count numbers down again, leaving Wayne and doctors to build them back up.

“While he was at the hospital and I was at work one day, I thought, what can I do, because I just feel so helpless,” says Lori. “I can’t take the disease away from him, but I felt I needed to do something. I contacted Canadian Blood Services and they put me in touch with One Match. Something as simple as a cheek swab can determine a donor’s viability to be a donor.

“When Wayne was first diagnosed, his siblings were all tested and there is a 25 per cent chance that one of the siblings would be a match, so it is not high odds. None of his siblings were a match, so they put him in the registry for a non-relative match. To be a match, there are markers and it is not blood type, but a genetic background. They are looking for a 10-out-of-10 to be a full match and we’re in the waiting game for that now.

“The main thing I want people to know is whether or not this week’s drive garners a donor for Wayne,” Lori said. “The timelines might not be exactly what we need because Wayne needs the bone marrow transplant now and the timeline to get it into the system might not work out for him. However, our biggest thing is to pay it forward and enrich that donor bank. We met so many people that were in the same boat as Wayne, needing transplants, so it is all about public awareness. We didn’t know any of this when we started this journey.”

Over the past few weeks, Lori says their family and friends have embraced them with support. Making the initial calls to organize the drive, she says she realized this was not something she would be able to organize on her own. Family and friends have stepped up to the plate in getting the word out, including a friend working at Dufferin Child and Family Services who organized and secured a room to hold the event.

Friends have also put their heads together to set up a Go Fund Me drive called Wayne’s Warriors to raise money for the family. Once they get their donor, the costs will start to mount. Full treatment takes over 100 days and they will have to go to Cleveland or Buffalo for several weeks for the initial work, through hospitals partnered with Toronto’s Princess Margaret facility

“This swabbing drive is in Wayne’s name but it is for everybody,” says Lori. “There are over 1,000 people waiting for the bone marrow transplants. Our mission is just to get the education out there and build up the bone marrow registry. Wayne has always been an avid blood donor and we value the gift of giving life, but now we have lived it. Without Wayne receiving blood and platelets over the last year he wouldn’t be here. They sustained him.”

Written By bROCK WEIR

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