ATLANTA – Julia Jenkins from Atlanta is just 13 years old and yet the teenager is already a hero for saving the life of not one but 3 of her younger brothers.
In 2008, when Julia was just seven years old, her younger brother Will, who was then just two years old, suddenly had a swollen gland in his neck. Doctors diagnosed Will with Burkitt Lymphoma; a rare form of lymph-nodes cancer.
At the same time that Will started on an aggressive chemo treatment, his older brother John, who was then 6, began to complain of severe stomach pain. A diagnosis quickly revealed he too had contracted Burkitt Lymphoma.
Doctors were stunned because Burkitt Lymphoma is not genetically inherited. But one doctor remembered a medical case involving a patient who had contracted Burkitt Lymphoma because he had XLP; a very rare genetic immunodeficiency illness that only appears in boys.
The doctor asked to have blood drawn from both Will, John and their other brother Matthew. Blood test results showed all three brothers had XLP.
Christy, the mother of Julia, Will, John and Matthew, was told that that her sons’ only chance for survival, was to undergo a bone marrow transplant.
When Julia heard what the doctors had told her mother, she sprung into action and without hesitation she offered her bone marrow to save the lives of her 3 brothers.
Doctors probed her with needles and drew lots of blood. She was a perfect match for John and Matthew and at just seven years old she went into surgery to have bone marrow removed from her hip.
“I remember they drew a lot of my blood to be tested. They pushed needles in my arms but I wanted to do it; they are my brothers,” Julia recalls.
John’s body accepted his sister’s bone marrow but Matthew’s body rejected it. A year later, Julia was asked to donate stem cells in an attempt to save John’s life. Once again, the dapper girl complied without hesitation. This time however, she had to sit still for eight hours as doctors slowly filtered stem cells from her blood.
Will received a bone marrow transplant from an anonymous young woman. Three years later, the 3 brothers are cured. They each get an injection once a month but are otherwise as healthy as can be and play sports, run, jump and do what other healthy kids their ages do.
Julia doesn’t regret for one minute what she did and says with a devious smile on her face “that’s my ace. If I need something I can always remind them they owe me”.
Then she says much more seriously: “It makes me feel good. They live because of me”.
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