For Kelly, her passion for helping people as a nurse anesthetist carried her through the pandemic, while she was fighting her own illness.
In 2017, Kelly was preparing for a procedure to relieve her unusual leg pain. Her lab work came back with striking results—an extremely high platelet count.
She was diagnosed with thrombocythemia, a blood disease in which bone marrow makes too many platelets.
“To me, somebody who has never been sick, to now have a chronic illness where I would have to take medication, it was difficult for me,” Kelly said.
The medication managed the disease, but she began experiencing leg pain again in April 2020. After several months of doctor’s visits, she was told that her illness progressed into myelofibrosis, a rare bone marrow cancer.
Kelly’s only hope for a cure is a marrow or stem cell transplant, but first she must find a matching donor—someone who has the same genetic tissue typing of the immune system.
“I was in complete shock,” she said. “Those were words I thought I would never have to say that pertained to me.”
Fortunately, Kelly has three potential donors through the Be The Match Registry, as well as waiting for confirmation on whether her brother is a perfect match.
Through her journey, Kelly learned that other patients in need of a marrow transplant are not so lucky. Patients are more likely to match a donor from the same ethnic or racial background, but many ethnic groups are underrepresented on the registry. For example, African American patients have only a 23% chance of finding their lifesaving match.
As Kelly goes through chemotherapy in preparation for a marrow transplant, she hopes her story will inspire others to sign up as marrow donors.
“I would encourage all to register, especially those individuals that are non-Caucasian as this is where there is a short fall of donors.”
To join the marrow registry in honor of Kelly, text RUN4KELLY to 61474