Hundreds turn out for bone marrow drive to help Michigan 9-year-old

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of people had their bone marrow type tested on Monday to see if they could help a 9-year-old Michigan girl with leukemia or another leukemia patient.

Lola DeYoung was first diagnosed with leukemia in February 2011. After two years of treatment, she went into remission, but the cancer came back after only a few months. She received a high-risk treatment including spinal taps and brain radiation. Just as the end of the treatment seemed near, she relapsed a second time.

Lola and friends. (July 20, 2015)
(Lola and friends)

Lola is going into fourth grade and has been undergoing cancer treatment nearly nonstop for more than four years. Hospitals have become a second home.

“They poke me, and then they give me, like, chemo if they need to, or they just take blood and then they take it out, it all depends, and then sometimes they give me blood,” Lola described. “You get used to it after four and half years. It kinda becomes a part of your life.”

Now on her third battle with cancer, a bone marrow transplant may be the only way to save Lola’s life. But she has an unusual genetic marker that makes it difficult to find a donor. Currently, there are no matches in the registry.

Lola says she’s looking for her “unicorn match.”

“At the end of this, I want there to be another unicorn bone marrow that can come to me and make me all done with cancer,” Lola said.

Siblings have a 25 percent chance of being a bone marrow match, but Lola’s sister is not one. Lola’s mother is pregnant with another sibling, but it’s not yet known whether the new baby will be a match.

Five days ago, a video was posted to Facebook advertising the bone marrow registry drive at Harbor Life Church in Grandville. The community responded, with nearly a thousand people lining up out the door to participate on Monday.

“We were motivated by the video to come out and register,” Scott Vanderaa said.

“I knew there would be a lot (of people), but I didn’t’ know there would be this many,” Lola said as she looked at the people waiting to register.

People took a few minutes for a simple swab of the inside of their cheek that could save a life.

“We are overwhelmed with joy and with love,” Cindy DeYoung, Lola’s grandmother, said of the turnout. “We just cannot believe what we’re seeing here, and it means the world to us because she means the world to us. And just the fact that there’s so many people that can be helped, we’re just overwhelmed. Because God is on the move here, and he’s going to help heal somebody. And we’re praying that Lola gets a match.”

“I can’t thank everyone enough for coming here. It means more than we can explain to people. It’s fantastic,” said Matt DeYoung, Lola’s dad.

The bone marrow drive may find a donor not only for Lola, but also for other leukemia patients.

“Thanks for being here,” Lola said.

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