Bone marrow drive born out of neighborhood togetherness


When Slater Phillips, 7, was diagnosed with a one-two punch of leukemia, the magic of the McLendon Court Moms went into action, resulting in a room full of potential bone marrow donors at Calvary Road Baptist Church to find Slater a match.

They all organized this in five days, said Cheryl Phillips, Slaters mother and a resident of McLendon Court off Beulah Road in Franconia. Slaters father, Tom Phillips, is a cancer survivor himself. Its amazing, most of this has been started from our neighborhood, he said.

Slaters trouble began in April when the Phillips noticed a bump on his chin and another on his neck that kept getting bigger. The doctors at Walter Reed Hospital did a biopsy and Slater went into the hospital that night, Cheryl Phillips said. After a few more tests, it was discovered that Slater had both acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myelogenous leukemia which require a bone marrow transplant.

Our jaws just kind of dropped, said Cheryl Phillips. Every week, Slater goes for chemotherapy at Walter Reed in addition to the treatments he gets at home. Slaters a study case now because this is so unusual, she said.

Into action
The need for a bone marrow transplant was brought up, and soon the word spread around the church where Slater also goes to school, and on his street at home where a majority of the homes have children Slaters age. Thats what brought the McLendon Court Moms into action. That phrase was not coined until last week, said Kirsti Garlock, one of the five moms from the neighborhood. When we heard what Tom and Cheryl were going through, thats when we knew we had to do something, Garlock said. Another Mom, Myleen Lankford, shared the same feeling. Were just really good friends and neighbors, we all knew in our hearts we needed to do something, Lankford said. The other Moms included Darlene McCoy, Krista Magras and Julin Williams.

They contacted the church and held a bone marrow testing day on May 16, and scheduled another in Crystal City in early June. The word got out further than McLendon Court, and now there is another bone marrow search scheduled in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where Cheryls parents live. She even received words of encouragement via email from people all over the world.

At the bone marrow testing station, the volunteers fill out forms that include health history questions and a signed agreement to join a national bone marrow registry. Then participants take a cheek swab so the tissue type can be determined. The swabs are sent to a lab in Minneapolis in overnight mail.

Franconia resident Vickey Hook sat at one of the tables and had her cheek swabbed. Her daughter goes to school there and she heard about it word of mouth. Your heart just goes out to them, Hook said.

Debra Wylie from the National Marrow Donor Program was on hand at the church to help with the procedure, screen patients and ensure that the swabs go to the right location. The test samples goes into our national database, she said. The National Marrow Donor Program recently ran a marrow drive from May 7-21 called Thanks Mom, in coordination with Mothers Day, also in May.

The Thanks Mom Marrow Donor Drive was established in honor of 10-year-old Kailee Wells, of Albuquerque, NM, who was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia in 2002. Kailee, an adopted child from China, ended up getting a marrow transplant from a Chinese donor in 2005.

In 2006, the National Marrow Donor Program launched the Thanks Mom campaign recruiting almost 6,000 donors on Mothers Day weekend, according to information on Kailees website.