CHATHAM, N.J. - A New Jersey community is coming together to help a 5-year-old girl who has a rare form of blood cancer and urgently needs a bone marrow transplant. Jackie Erb, of Summit, has juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, which occurs in just one or two children per million each year.
Jackie is the daughter of Lauren Gonnella and Brian Erb, a special education teacher at Chatham High School in Chatham. The school district and the Chatham Education Association, which represents the district's educators, have teamed with the organization Be The Match to hold a marrow-donor screening drive — both in-person at a local COVID-safe drive-thru event and online to anyone in the country.
"As Brian's co-teacher, I witnessed the devastating steps in December to Jackie's JMML diagnosis firsthand and was heartbroken with him," CEA co-president Betsy Long said in a statement. "When I shared the news with our colleagues, the immediate call to help our friend and his family spread."
The drive-thru screening event is set for Saturday, Jan. 9, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Chatham High School. Here is how screening works: You won't need to exit your car. Instead, you'll swab the inside of your cheek. Your tissue cells will be tested to see if you're a match.
"The cheek swab is free for donors ages 18-44 due to the higher success rate from donors in this age range," the event announcement states, "for those over 45 who want to participate, the cost is $100, which would be paid by the individual or by the Gonella-Erb family."
If you cannot attend the drive-thru, you can request Be the Match to send a test kit to your home. You can register online at join.bethematch.org/TeamJackie or you can text "teamjackie" to 6-1474.
Jackie, 5, has juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia. (Courtesy of the Erb family)
In JMML, too many of your blood stem cells become myelocytes and monocytes, which are types of white blood cells, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some of these cells then never fully mature. These undeveloped cells are called blasts.
"Over time, the myelocytes, monocytes, and blasts crowd out the red blood cells and platelets in the bone marrow," NCI states on its website. "When this happens, infection, anemia, or easy bleeding may occur."
JMML often spreads from the bone marrow to the skin, lungs, liver, and intestines.
Jackie is looking for a bone marrow donor. (Courtesy of the Erb family)
DRIVE-THRU SCREENING INFORMATION
Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, 8 a.m.–2 p.m.
Chatham High School, 255 Lafayette Avenue, Chatham, NJ 07928
Contact: Candace Hull, email@example.com
ONLINE SCREENING INFORMATION
Be The Match Registry
Text "teamjackie" (one word) to 6-1474
Jackie's father, Brian Erb, is a special education teacher at Chatham High School. (Courtesy of the Erb family)