Rina

Rina underwent a bone marrow transplant after discovering that her only sibling, 3-year-old Patrick, beat the one in four odds of being her perfect marrow match.

“Your daughter has leukemia.”  The terrifying words hung in the air as Marianne and Keith Sy struggled to take it all in.

It couldn’t be true, they thought to themselves. After all, their five-year-old daughter, Rina, had always been vibrant and healthy. But lately, she seemed weaker than normal. She bruised easily and had red spots all over her body. She’d lost weight, was feverish and her eyes appeared sunken in.

In their hearts, Marianne and Keith knew something was wrong, but never imagined it was cancer.

A blood test confirmed Marianne’s worst fears. Their family doctor diagnosed Rina with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia – a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer. Rina was rushed to Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego where a team of specialists were ready and waiting for her. In a blur, the brave little girl underwent a number of tests, received a blood transfusion and began chemotherapy.

Over the course of the next few months, Rina endured four rounds of chemotherapy and six rounds of radiation.  And while it was heartbreaking to see their daughter in pain, Marianne and Keith knew Rina was in the best place possible. They trusted Dr. Andrew Dietz, Rina’s pediatric oncologist, implicitly.

Treatment was going well – then came the news that brought Rina’s parents to their knees. A blood test revealed Rina had the Philadelphia chromosome – a high-risk and potentially deadly strain of leukemia. Without a bone marrow transplant, she might not survive. Rina’s younger brother, Patrick, was her only hope.

ALL Ph+ is a rare and very aggressive version of leukemia. Only 5% of children are diagnosed with this form of cancer. Typical Acute Lympholastic Leukemia, which is the most common form of childhood cancer, has an 85% survival rate, but Rina was diagnosed within the 5% that have the challenging Philadelphia chromosome.

Though some standard treatments for leukemia may end with chemotherapy treatments, immediately following Rina's three rounds of chemotherapy treatments and just four months after diagnosis, Rina underwent a bone marrow transplant after discovering that her only sibling, 3-year-old Patrick, beat the one in four odds of being her perfect marrow match.

On transplant day, Patrick stayed overnight in the hospital room next to his sister's after the medical team successfully extracted his liquid bone marrow - receiving a single blood transfusion from the matched blood donated by Rina and Patrick's mom just a few days before the procedure.

Patrick was aware of the importance of his role in Rina’s life and turned it into a game of Angry Birds. He knew that he had Angry Birds in his body that could fight the bad piggies in his sister’s body; she refers to him as a Super Bone Marrow Donor. The family had a party before the surgery and even had a special cape made for Patrick.

It was later discovered after the transplant that Patrick's quantity of cells received by Rina was DOUBLE the amount of new cells anticipated! "Powerful Patrick's" cells allowed for an amazing recovery forever bonding the two siblings stronger than ever imagined.

Thanks to a wonderful medical team, cancer research, and especially her brave and powerful little brother Patrick, Rina has been gifted with a second chance in life.

Rina is grateful to the staff at Rady Children’s for helping her during her most critical time of need. The Child Life Specialists coached her on how to take and swallow pills, and played with her in her room and playrooms. The art therapist helped her to communicate her feelings through art and the nurses in the integrative medicine program helped her to feel better by using lavender essential oils. The family feels as though Rady Children’s is a part of their family and considers being at Rady Children’s the best thing that could have happened for their children.