Celina was very excited about Easter. What gave her the most joy was to be finally able to once again paint easter eggs with her little sister, Michelle and search for chocolate eggs in the garden. She was happy to go back to being a normal family.
For Michelle and Celine's family the last two years have been anxious ones. The last two years have been filled with fear, waiting, hope, they have been two years that have changed the family completely.
Celine was 9 years old when her sister Michelle (two years younger) being ill with leukaemia.
Michelle, an ex-leukaemia patient, on the left with her sister Celine. The German José Carreras Foundation against leukaemia help the girls who live in Germany.
After the diagnosis the family was shocked. Her parents remember well the moment that they received the diagnosis about their little girl: "Leukaemia was a big shock for us. We were asking so many questions: what does leukaemia actually mean? What is going to happen? And above all, is our daughter Michelle going to die?"
Michelle in 2008, before falling ill.
After the first moments, everything passed very quickly as the treatment started immediately. It seemed like everything was going well with the chemotherapy, which was a relief to everyone, but after some weeks the family received a blow. After further analysis it was found that Michelle had a rare and complicated form of leukaemia. A bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor was the only thing that could save the little girl.
At that moment the global search to find a donor began. Half a year later came the moment they had been waiting for and Michelle received a donor's cells in the University Clinic in Frankfurt.
For Michelle, her sister Celine, and their parents, it was the worst few days of their lives. "The days and weeks following the transplant were horrible for us. Michelle was feeling really bad and we feared for her. But of everyone it was her sister Celine who struggled the most", said her parents. As Michelle's small body remained extremely weak after the transplant and any small infection threatening to be fatal, Celine could not go to visit her little sister in the hospital. ""Celine was always asking, when Michelle could come home, it hurt her tremendously that she could not be with her sister in such a difficult moment. They spoke frequently by telephone which gave Michelle lots of strength".
Michelle in 2009. Playing the guitar helped her to forget her illness a bit.
It wasnt only her sister that missed Michelle. Her school mates and friends from her beloved dance group were also at her side. She received many cards and drawings that told her "we are with you!"
The cards of her classmates gave Michelle extra strength and fight during the most difficult momento of her life.
Today, a year and a half after the bone marrow transplant, Michelle is feeling fine. She has returned to school and her cherished dance school. And her sister is also relieved "at last Michelle has come home. At last we can be a normal family again", she explained contently.
Testimony of Prof. Peter Bader, Director of the Centre of Stem Cell Transplants at the pediatric centre in the University Clinic in Frankfurt:
"Little Michelle is one of 50 children each year who undergo a bone marrow transplant in the University Clinic in Frankfurt (Germany). For them, the transplant is the last chance to overcome leukaemia. The treatment is extremely hard for these small patients, who suffer many side effects as well as blows to their happiness".
With the help of the José Carreras Foundation against Leukaemia in Germany, my team are working on a therapy based on sports and movement for children suffering from leukaemia, during and after a transplant. With this programme they will perform simple exercises each day to help their strength and coordination during the long stays in hospital. Once they receive the all clear, we continue with the sport therapy in the post treatment clinic. The first results of the study have shown that sport and movement in patients, not only improves their quality of life but also reduces the side effects of the bone marrow transplant.
Especially in children like Michelle, who has a great passion for dance, a therapy of this type is crucial to help them get better through the long days in hospital during and after the transplant. To see Michelle today, dancing and laughing is, for her parents but also for me as a doctor, an exceptional gift".
Prof. Dr. med. Peter Bader
Become a member of the cure for leukaemia and haematological malignacies, HERE
Find out more about bone marrow donation, HERE