Most people have a sense that donations of bone marrow, blood, platelets and even umbilical-cord blood are important for people facing difficult medical journeys.
But 12-year-old Lacey McClain, a Pine Island fifth-grader, makes the need personal.
She's a quick-witted youngster with her fingers in lots of different pies, like softball, swimming (yeah, that Pine Island swimming pool really needs to happen) and biking.
"She was very, very active; very outgoing; very bubbly," said Lacey's mom, Chrissie Jurrens. "She was a lot more active. She was one of those kids I couldn't get her to stay home for, like, 10 minutes."
Hospital beds, IVs and medical tests have put a crimp in that energy — but not Lacey's personality.
She is in remission from T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. That means she's a candidate for a bone-marrow transplant. Neither of her parents are a match (chances of a parent matching are only about 5 percent).
Therefore, Lacey will need to match an unrelated donor and is hoping for one through the National Bone Marrow Donor Program, which is holding a special donor registry Tuesday at UMR.
In the meantime, to stay in remission, Lacey must continue to undergo repeated chemotherapy treatments that make her feel sick. Relief comes from blood and platelet donations, which make her feel temporarily "normal" again.
She's got a central line in one of the veins leading to her heart so it's easier to get chemo and fluids. But it requires that her swimming be done only waist high (she demonstrates this by using her hand to draw a maximum water level on her shirt).
It's only been about three weeks since she and her family, including Adam, who is her step-dad; brother Alex, 15; and step-siblings Isaiah, 13, Beau, 11, and Ionee, 9, found out that Lacey is in remission — which is a super-good thing.
But the continued chemo is frustrating, since, essentially, Lacey wouldn't have to experience it any longer if she could get a marrow transplant.
"She had to be in remission before she could get a donation … we don't know how long we're going to wait," Jurrens said.
To her, the frustrating part is watching her daughter continue going through chemotherapy, and all the side effects, such as nausea and exhaustion.
Especially, Lacey pointed out, since, after her marrow transplant, she won't need chemo.
Just like any 12-year-old, Lacey has responsibilities at home.
One example of those responsibilities is her pet rabbit Chloe. Got to feed the rabbit, clean the cage and pay attention to the Holland Lop. Her family members help out with such things during times she's hospitalized when Lacey gets treatment at the Mayo Clinic Children's Center–Mayo Eugenio Litta campus.
Lacey confesses that rabbits — her brown, white and gray rabbit, at least — are not the fluffy, cute creatures they are made out to be.
"As soon as I clean her cage, she starts throwing things around in there, and ripping things," she said. Truth be told, she might actually like dogs better.
Lacey's mom hopes lots of people will sign up to be marrow donors Tuesday, and that Mayo Clinic employees will participate in their internal registry this week. But she's also hopeful people will donate blood, platelets and placenta cord blood.
Lacey looks forward to the day her transplant occurs, once a match is found.
"It's just like when they give me my blood cells," she said. "It's like a little bag full of bone marrow and it's hooked up to my IV — and then it goes in!"
Once that happens, she could be freed of the central line and return to swimming like a fish.
"Then, after five years, she's considered cured at that point," Jurrens said.