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Three-year-old Arlie is in search of a donor after a life-changing diagnosis

3-year-old searching patient Arlie

Three-year-old Arlie’s world is usually filled with dolls, Disney princesses and playing dress-up. As a very active kid, she participated weekly in soccer, gymnastics and swimming. On March 17, 2023, though, her world suddenly changed—Arlie was diagnosed with leukemia. 

What started off as a bout of COVID-19  and strep throat quickly became much more for the Robken family. Arlie had a fever on and off for five days, which her parents assumed was COVID-19 related. After the fifth day, they decided to take her to the doctor. Marina, Arlie’s mom, had noticed a bruise on Arlie’s stomach and that she kept napping throughout the evening. “I couldn’t get her to stay awake,” Marina said. “She was super drowsy, but again I thought it was the result of COVID.”

They quickly rushed to the ER, thinking Arlie may have been dehydrated. Doctors did routine blood work and, in the middle of the night, they told the family that Arlie had leukemia and needed a blood transfusion immediately. Matt, Arlie’s dad, described it as a “surreal and scary night.” Even after she received the transfusion , her vitals and oxygen levels continued to decrease. 

The doctors set a goal to achieve remission within the first month. Much to everyone’s disappointment, though,  Arlie’s treatments were adjusted after doctors examined her bone marrow  for a second time and found that   her leukemia had not gone into remission. Now, a blood stem cell transplant may be the best course of action to find a cure for Arlie.

Her family knows it will be difficult to find a match because of her mixed ethnicity—she’s half Mexican and half White. Human leukocyte antigens (HLA), genetically inherited proteins found on cells in the body, play a big role in finding matches for patients . People of Hispanic heritage have unique HLA markers, though, which can make it difficult to find a matching donor.  “That notion that her ethnicity will make it harder makes us feel even more sad,” said Marina.  

By signing up to be a blood stem cell donor, you could bring hope to the Robken family. This Hispanic Heritage Month, make an impact in the lives of patients like Arlie by becoming a potential lifesaver. Text SaveArlie to 61474 to join the Be The Match Registry® now.