NEWS
01/11/2017 18:28 EST | Updated 01/12/2018 00:12 EST

Parents of 21-month-old battling rare leukemia thank blood donors, urge others to give

Parents of a toddler battling a rare form of leukemia sent a message of thanks to Canadian blood donors across the country and are urging others to give.

Twenty-one-month-old Aubrey Hirsch was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in September of last year. She's undergone 36 blood transfusions since to get through the first rounds of chemotherapy.

Her parents, Allan Hirsch and Megan Davis, knew little about the disease before the diagnosis. But after months of hospital visits and monitoring her white blood cell count, they understand first-hand how donating blood can save lives,

"We really do see that there is a need ... and we're falling short of that need in terms of donations. What we really want to do is to push for more people to donate," said Allan Hirsch.

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Hirsch says his daughter has responded well to the chemotherapy. However, she is battling a rare mutation of ALM called FLT 3 and still has a long way to go before a full recovery.

"Right now, we're gearing up for a bone marrow transplant — that's the final solution to eradicating the AML," said Hirsch.

Troubles finding a donor

But finding a bone marrow donor hasn't been easy.

"We were lucky enough to learn that there was someone out there in the world that was a perfect match for her," said Megan Davis.

"However, they didn't follow through on making themselves available for Aubrey."

According to David Patterson, director of donor relations in B.C. for Canadian Blood Services, there are 28 million people world-wide that have registered their bone marrow.

And only one was a perfect match for Aubrey Hirsch.

Patterson is urging everyone to register their bone marrow — especially men aged 17 to 35, who tend to produce quality bone marrow and stem cells that reduce the chances of post-transplant complications.

He says donors can begin the registration process either online or by visiting a clinic.

"It'll take you 15 minutes to swab your cheeks, fill out a registration form and you're on the registry. And imagine, that simple act could save a life like Aubree's."

'She's my inspiration'

Since Hirsch's bone marrow transplant fell through, her father will donate his marrow. But his is not a perfect match, so there's a chance the transplant won't be effective.

Mother Megan Davis says Aubrey is a fighter and is hopeful the transplant will be a success.

"She's been a champ so far. She's truly impressed us through this whole process. She's my inspiration. She's amazing," she said.

Follow Jon Hernandez on Twitter @jonvhernandez