How getting a simple cheek swab might help save a 4-year-old dying of leukemia

“Please God, make me feel better,” is the prayer 4-year-old Ailani Myers recites from her car seat en route to yet another hospital treatment.

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just before turning 3 years old, Ailani Myers needs a blood stem cell donation to save her life.

Her family is asking for people to join the world’s largest blood stem cell registry to help her find a match.

“We want to give Ailani a second chance at a full, healthy life. And it’s not just Ailani, there’s children all over the world,” who need matches, Myers’ aunt Giggett Johnson told WTOP.

Ailani Myers and her parents, Kurt and P.J. Myers, now live in Severna Park, Maryland, while she is receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

“They are going to take the blood out of me, and then they are going to put in a machine and make it into medicine and then put it back in my body,” Ailani Myers said about her treatments.

“It is going to make me feel better.”

Ailani Myers
Ailani Myers’ family is appealing for people to join the world’s largest blood stem cell registry to help her find a match.

Ailani Myers
Ailani Myers and her parents, Kurt and P.J. Myers, now live in Severna Park, Maryland, while she is receiving treatment at John’s Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore.

Ailani Myers
Ailani Myers’ mom, P.J., recently retired as a Chief Petty Officer after 23 years of service.

Ailani Myers
Dad, Kurt Myers, is a Chief Warrant Officer in the Navy.

Ailani Myers
Diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia just before turning 3 years old, Ailani Myers needs a blood stem cell donation to save her life.

(1/5)
Ailani Myers
Ailani Myers
Ailani Myers
Ailani Myers
Ailani Myers

When Ailani Myers was first diagnosed, the family lived in Waco, Texas, but they relocated when it became clear she required more aggressive treatment.

Ailani Myers’ mom, P.J., recently retired as a chief petty officer after 23 years of service. Dad, Kurt Myers, is a chief warrant officer in the Navy.

What it’s like when the unimaginable strikes your family?

Another D.C.-area child whose life could be changed by finding a match from someone joining the registry is Ben Lesser, of Bethesda, Maryland.

“So, that’s our cry right now, and our prayer — is to go to the registry to save lives,” Johnson said.

Only 1 in 430 people is ever called that he is a match. Around 80% of the time, donating is very similar to giving plasma. Twenty percent of cases are a marrow donation, which are performed while the patient and donor are sleeping.

To join the registry, which involves mailing in a cheek swab you do at home, text SAVEAILANI (all one word) to 61474 or go to the Be The Match registry website.

A GoFundme page has been set up for Ailani Myers.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up