Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sun, Aug 03 2008

Mother Searching for Cure to Help Toddler

The Palestine Herald

PALESTINE — In most respects, Emma Routh is a typical 3-year-old. She loves to play with baby dolls and Playdough, and dance and sing to songs by her favorite singer, Taylor Swift.

But at only 18 pounds and 2-foot tall, Emma is anything but typical.

On June 23, a local pediatrician diagnosed the toddler as having a condition called Fanconi Anemia, a rare blood disorder that causes bone marrow to stop making enough new blood cells for the body to work normally.

The condition leads to bone marrow failure and also can cause bone marrow to make many abnormal blood cells, which can lead to serious health problems like cancer.

“I was at the doctor with my 8-month-old son, who had tonsillitis,” Emma’s mother Brandy Routh said in a recent interview. “I looked at the growth chart and noticed Emma was very small for her age, as if she had stopped growing.

“The doctor and I talked about it and she wanted to run some tests on Emma,” she said. “I got the news on June 23 that she had Fanconi Anemia.”

When Routh found out about her daughter’s condition, she knew immediately what she had to do — drop everything and work to save her daughter’s life.

“The only thing that can save her life is a bone marrow transplant,” Routh said. “I didn’t even talk to my husband before I dropped out of college and began working to find a cure for my daughter.

“I knew every second I could spend with her would be precious,” she added. “And I wanted to find a way to help her.”

FA, if left untreated, has a life expectancy of anywhere from 18 to 26 years. But Emma only has another 12 to 18 months to receive a bone marrow transplant before her condition likely turns to leukemia.

“A bone marrow transplant takes healthy bone marrow cells from a donor and uses them to replace the abnormal cells in bone marrow,” Routh said. “A successful transplant would make enough new blood cells to work normally.”

Routh’s efforts to gather bone marrow donors has been fairly successful of late. Working with the Because I Care organization and the National Bone Marrow Program, she has been able to schedule two bone marrow drives in East Texas.

The first one, which takes place Aug. 16 in Tyler, is already maxed out with its 400-donor quota. A second drive, considered a kick-off event, is taking place from noon to 6 p.m. Aug. 23 at Dogwood Hills Baptist Church in Palestine, the Rouths’ home church.

“Carter Blood Care will be there doing the donations and can take from 250 to 300 donors,” Routh said. “There will also be a silent auction, hamburger dinner, a bake sale and massages — all to raise funds to cover costs of tissue typing.”

According to the National Bone Marrow Program, tissue typing costs about $52 per person, with minority donors being exempt from the fees. The donation process, while involved, is relatively painless.

“There are two types of bone marrow donation — as a surgical procedure under general anesthesia or by a blood donation,” Routh said. “Emma had a bone marrow biopsy done and was up and running within an hour.”

Once a donation is made, a typical person’s bone marrow is reproduced within 24 to 48 hours.

“For Emma we are looking for a female donor, brunette or blonde haired and brown- or blue-eyed — blood type really doesn’t matter,” Routh said. “Anyone who wants to donate should feel free to do so, though.

“You never know who will be a good match.”

A fund for Emma has been set up at First State Bank in Noonday, Palestine, and Frankston. For more information about the bone marrow drive or to donate bone marrow e-mail Brandy Routh at or call 903-549-3125.


Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at

No comments: