Sam and Brittany, two moms and friends who are hosting the first Mimosas for Marrow 5K benefiting Be The Match
A mother’s strength and endurance are seldom matched—but there are times they get tested to painful extremes. For Sam that test came early, and fiercely, just two years into motherhood.
A nightmare—then a gift
Sam started noticing some worrying symptoms late 2021, when her daughter Oakley was just 2 years old. Oakley had become noticeably more pale, weak and tired. A handful of bruises suddenly turned into dozens, and she also became covered in red spots called petechiae. “My heart sank to my stomach as I helped her get dressed [before the ER],” recalled Sam. “I knew in my gut something was really wrong.”
After a trip to the ER and a hospital admission, Oakley was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a rare, life-threatening blood disorder. They tried immunotherapy but it failed. They desperately needed a bone marrow transplant to give Oakley a fighting chance at survival.
Not all patients find a matching donor—but Oakley did. A kind stranger from Germany had signed up on the Be The Match Registry® and followed through to donate bone marrow when called upon. In May 2022 Oakley received her bone marrow transplant. “I dream about the day we possibly get to meet this beautiful soul who selflessly donated stem cells to save my daughter’s life,” said Sam. “It’s undoubtedly the best gift you could possibly give someone.”
Roller coaster recovery
While Oakley’s transplant was ultimately successful, her journey post-transplant has been very bumpy. Oakley has endured jaundice/liver toxicity, a blood infection, an invasive infection requiring inpatient surgery, plus multiple flare-ups of graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD)—a common, but potentially serious condition that occurs when the donor’s blood stem cells attack the recipient.
“There were days and nights that I would sob and scream into the abyss from the anger I had felt seeing her so sick,” said Sam. “Our family fell apart while also coming together stronger than ever—if that makes sense. But one thing I know is becoming a mom gives you the most immaculate and notable strength you’d never believe in until you’re in the position of fighting for your child’s life.”
Despite all her symptoms and pain, Oakley showed remarkable strength and courage. Now, at long last, Oakley has been able to start living life as a kid again.
Raising funds—and a glass
Sometimes life hands you a new friend at just the right moment. For Sam, that new friend was Brittany. Both women had daughters and were pregnant with their second at the time they met. The pair quickly hit it off and became close friends—and so did their daughters. During hospital stays and isolation the moms would set up FaceTime chats for Oakley and Everly. “[We wanted to] remind Oakley that she is a kid and she is loved and thought about, no matter where she is,” said Brittany.
Now the two friends have teamed up with Fusion Racing to host Mimosas for Marrow 5K—a fundraising event on April 16 to raise funds and awareness for Be The Match®. The event, which will take place in Wilmington, Delaware, has now grown to include nearly 250 participants and 40+ sponsors. There will be food, live music, fun raffles—and a free mimosa at the finish line (for those 21+).
A Be The Match tent will be onsite where people can learn about the mission and the need for more blood stem cell donors. Swab kits will be available for more people to join the registry. “We want to inspire others to talk more about Be The Match, becoming a donor and adding diversity to the registry—to help give every patient a second chance at life,” said Sam.
“We never knew the impact [Be The Match] had until Oakley needed them,” said Brittany. She also admires the kindness and strength of Sam and her husband, Jon. “While this experience would likely break any parent, Sam has used it as an opportunity to share Oakley’s story, share the Be The Match mission, and help others going through similar situations.”
Sam added: “Sometimes it’s difficult to speak on [Oakley’s] journey because all the emotions from such a painful and traumatic experience resurface, and you have to work through those emotions all over— but often I keep in mind how sharing her story can support other families going through this, while also allowing myself to heal.”
Want to help Sam and Brittany meet their fundraising goal to help give hope to more patients? Please consider making a gift in any size today. Or find your own fun way to rally your network to raise hope for patients by creating a fundraiser of your own.
Oakley and her little sister, Coastal