“To not have to worry is a miracle”
In 2015, Amy Hunter’s parents rushed her to the hospital with a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop. It would be a few months of similar incidents before they’d receive a shocking diagnosis: Fanconi Anaemia, which comes with high risks of uncontrollable bleeding, recurrent infections, and serious cancers. She would need a transplant to cure her, but until then, she would have to adapt to a new lifestyle of extreme caution and frequent blood transfusions.
For almost five years, Amy’s family waited for a donor. In the meantime, Amy quit gymnastics, watched sports from the sidelines, and spent lots of time in the hospital. This new routine became “second nature,” according to her mother Elza. But even when she was ill, Amy never missed school except on transfusion days. “She insisted on going to school even if we were in hospital the whole night with a nose bleed,” Elza says. Having to change your lifestyle at a very young age must have been very difficult for you, Amy, and must have felt unfair at times. We never know when life will call upon us to with a challenge—and you handled it with so much grace and resilience. We are so proud of you!
Friends and family stepped up to the plate, holding awareness days and fundraising for Amy’s medical costs. Finally, in 2019, Amy’s parents got the call: a donor had been found in Germany.
Before Amy left for the transplant, her class had a surprise party for her, gifting her a book of handwritten letters. The school’s hockey team even dedicated the last match of the season to her. While in Pretoria awaiting her transplant, Amy listened to One Direction, Why Don’t We, and received frequent video chats from her friends and teachers. She received her transplant in August 2019 at Unitas Hospital, and it successfully cured her condition. We are so glad you were surrounded by so much love and support on your journey, Amy. I am sure this must have given you and your family strength throughout such a scary few years. And what a wonderful result—a successful transplant!
Now, Amy is in high school, spending lots of time in her school’s shooting club, painting, and listening to music every day. Elza explains, “To not have a hospital bag constantly with pajamas and snacks and homework, to book a vacation without having to search for the closest hospital with leucodepleted irradiated blood… to not have to worry, it’s an absolute miracle.”
Elza credits her daughter’s survival to Amy’s medical team, the Registry, and God.
Amy’s physician, Dr. David Stones in Bloemfontein, calls her “one of the great success stories.”Amy’s story is so special to us, because her transplant was actually the 500th transplant the SABMR has facilitated for patients in need. So to see Amy healthy, smiling, and enjoying the world around her is not only a beautiful reminder of why we do what we do, but an amazing milestone for the people here at the Registry who work hard every day to save lives.
Readers, if you aren’t registered as a donor, learn more about donating here. It’s an easy, quick process to sign up, and you could help save a life like Amy’s! And if you’re over 45 or ineligible to donate stem cells, you can donate in other ways here. Everything we receive from our supporters goes directly towards helping more incredible people like Amy find their miracle match and get the treatments they need.
Amy, may you continue to be a ray of sunshine to your peers and community at large. It is a joy for all of us to watch you grow!