Madalayna and Tamara Ducharme, 33 days after Madalayna received her bone marrow transplant. Photo provided by Tamara Ducharme)

Bowl-A-Thon For Stem Cell Bone Marrow Transplant Recipients

Six months ago, Windsor residents came out in droves to help baby Madalayna Ducharme find a bone marrow match.

On Saturday, they can help again by taking part in a bowl-a-thon dedicated to supporting the families of those who still need a transplant.

The 12th annual Bowling for Bone Marrow Bowl-a-Thon takes place Saturday at Rose Bowl Lanes on Dougall Ave. in Windsor. Check-in is at noon, and the fundraiser gets underway at 1pm.

It is the Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Association’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and this year it can count Madalayna among its success stories.

The baby girl, who celebrated her first birthday this week, likes to dance and can stand while holding her parent’s fingers. Her mother, Tamara Ducharme is grateful for every day.

“We were unsure if we were going to make it there, to the first birthday,” she says. “We’re hoping that she’ll be a healthy little girl.”

However, the struggle is not over. Friday, the family is driving up Hwy. 401 for Madalayna’s six-month post-transplant appointment at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.

Ducharme says her daughter has bi-weekly hospital visits to ensure her medication is up to date. Madalayna still uses a feeding tube, and even months later, there is still the question whether the bone marrow transplant from her brother is working.

“They’ll probably do an x-ray,” says Ducharme about the upcoming appointment. “She’s had a little growth. If her bones show changes that means she’s on the track of getting better. Now, if there is no change, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Life with a young child who has received a transplant can also be very isolating, and Ducharme admits it has not been easy.

“We’re bubbled. We really go anywhere. We don’t really play with other kids,” she says. “You’ve gotta take the proper steps to take care of your child. If she could catch anything and it could be really detrimental.”

She says the association has been very good to her family and they are grateful for their, and the community’s support over a challenging chapter in their lives.

Bryan and Joanne Bedard understand the difficulties faced by families of children waiting for a donor. They lost their 3-year-old daughter, Katelyn, in 2005 when they were unable to find one.

Since then, they have raised money for donor clinics and awareness of the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network which now has 6,500 registered donors. The Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Association has also donated $115,000 to stem cell and bone marrow transplant research at both the University of Windsor and the Universite de Montreal.

– With files from Maureen Revait