Parishioner at St. Peter's needs bone marrow transplant

A bone marrow registry drive to help an 18-year-old parishioner find a donor to cure her rare blood disease is slated Sunday, May 15, noon to 3 p.m., at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 71 River Street, Milford.
While her parish family continues to pray for a miracle, the only medical hope for a cure for Warner Dixon, a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden, and current Temple University freshman, is a bone marrow transplant, church officials said.

She is afflicted with a rare type of B-thalassemia, an inherited blood disease that can cause severe anemia, a condition where there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.

Participants coming to the registry drive would provide information and a cheek swab that is then analyzed and put into a national data base for potential donors. Eligible donors are between the ages of 18 and 44. Those aged 45 to 60 may also register for $100 but do so online.

Despite dealing with pain, fatigue and an enlarged spleen, Dixon had been able to dance competitively with Milford Performing Arts Company, play on Sacred Heart’s basketball team and play xylophone in the school orchestra.

Things changed in spring of 2014 when she came down with a respiratory illness she couldn’t shake despite antibiotics, steroids and inhalers. As her senior year began that fall, she was struggling with lethargy along with severe abdominal and bone pain while going through a succession of doctors, emergency room visits, bloodwork and scans.

Finally diagnosed in March 2015 with B-thalassemia, she began a chronic monthly blood transfusion protocol and for the first time in years started to look and feel better. But she missed her high school graduation when she was hospitalized with a transfusion reaction and massively enlarged spleen, forcing her to have her spleen surgically removed.

At Temple, she is only 10 minutes from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a U.S. Center of Excellence for Comprehensive Thalassemia Care but still deals with hospitalizations, ER visits to manage bone pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. So she misses classes from being in the hospital, going to appointments, being too weak to walk to class, and enduring too much pain to sit in class.

Dixon has suffered transfusion reactions which presents a life threatening risk to receiving further blood transfusions. So her only medical hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant, according to church officials.

She does not have a suitable donor in her immediate family, which is like most patients who need a bone marrow transplant.