IN DECEMBER 1990 my mother, Louisa Weistche, fell victim to a villainous disease called chronic Myelogenous leukemia, one of a group of fatal diseases in which white blood cells proliferate in uncontrolled numbers. White blood cells are produced in healthy bone marrow. A transplant replaces dysfunctional bone marrow that is producing the cancerous cells, with healthy bone marrow that will produce healthy normal white blood cells. She received her diagnosis from Dr. J. L. Hutchison of the Division of Hematology in the Montreal General Hospital.
When my mother received the news from her doctor she was very sad to the point of being depressed. Some of the reasons being that she had seven children and a husband to whom she was happily married for 18 years. Her youngest daughter Naomi was also profoundly deaf due to Spinal Meningitis. The thought of dying was scary. My mother and father prayed that God would restore my mother’s health. They discovered my mother’s health. They discovered my mother’s youngest brother Brian Edward Frank was an answer to their prayers.
Her prognosis was, that without a bone marrow transport within six months, to one or two years without symptoms, followed by a rapid decline in health and then death. Ideally bone marrow transplantation should be done in the chronic phase and during the first year of illness.
The doctor’s immediate plan was to treat her with oral chemotherapy, specifically Hydroxurea at a dose of one gram daily. This medication was to decrease her white count substantially and hopefully to alleviate the boney pain related to her leukemia. The next step was to get samples of my mother’s and siblings’ blood. These were obtained in hopes of identifying a potential donor. If a compatible donor was one of the siblings, the plan was to perform the bone marrow transplant within the next six months. Finding a donor among strangers would be very difficult. My mother’s siblings were her only hope.
My mother has five brothers and five sisters and the youngest member is Brian Edward Frank. They were all tested. Brian and one of his sisters Nellie Frank were identified as compatible donors. At that time Nellie was five months pregnant, which made it impossible for her to donate her bone marrow. Brian made the decision to donate his bone marrow to my mother. He realized that he was her only chance to regain her health and carry on with a happy, normal life.
Brian is now 22 years old and he is still single. His occupation is traditional pursuits on his father’s trapline. He plans to continue this Cree life style even though both of his parents are not able to participate in hunting and trapping. Brian is not known to be defiant nor disrespectful to his parents. He enjoys life in Waskaganish with his family and relatives. When he was called upon, he put his life on the line for his older sister, who is my mother.
At that point of the process Brian was on his father’s trapline. He was transported by helicopter to Waskaganish and from there a flight by Air Creebec to Montreal. At Montreal General Hospital he underwent the painful operation where the doctors removed some of his healthy bone marrow from his thigh bone.
My mother received her bone marrow transplant from Brian on November 28, 1991. The bone marrow transplant was a success and they were discharged on December 23, 1991 from the Montreal General Hospital. It was a happy Christmas.
Today my mother is very healthy and continues to work as a janitor at the Wiinibekuu School in Waskaganish Quebec. Our whole family is very grateful to Brian. He donated his bone marrow to my mother and because of his actions my mother has a chance to live to a ripe old age.
My mother says that she would like to tell her grandchildren of the experience that she had in her lifetime. My mother also says that she feels closer to her brother Brian than she ever did before.
From all of us the Weistche family and the Frank family for what you did in regards to being an answer to our prayers.
Thank you Brian Edward Frank.
by Harry Weistche, age 18 Waskaganish