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DENTON (CBS11) – “I’m eight years old. My birthday’s in May.”
Meet Hallie Barnard. She’s not camera shy.
“I’m in third grade in Miss May’s class. She’s engaged,” Hallie delightfully informed us.
The little girl from Denton, our choice for this week’s Wednesday’s Warriors, gives no hint that she has a serious disease.
“I say funny jokes. I’m sassy.”
A big smile follows.
In fact, when CBS11 sat down with her, she wanted to start with a joke about a restaurant on the moon.
“The food is good,” she quips. “But there is no atmosphere.”
And that’s pretty much how the rest of the interview went – smiles, giggles, her ponytails dancing.
But Hallie’s rare blood disorder, known as Diamond-Blackfan Anemia, is no laughing matter.
Her happy-go-lucky mood masks her disease, where there are not enough red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen through her body, causing possible paleness, sleeplessness, rapid heartbeat and a heart murmur.
Another symptom – irritability – never broke her smile, though sometimes her words foretold a different reality.
“One time I went to the doctor, and it was so bad they had to put me outside of the room and talk about it,” Hallie said.
But she’s not taking her sickness lying down. Instead, Hallie is fighting back, starting – with help from family and friends – Hallie’s Heroes.
And she’s partnered with others, including the Fort Worth fire and police departments, to raise awareness of the life-saving need for bone marrow matches.
There is an estimated 800 people – most of them young – with Diamond-Blackfan Anemia.
“Each one of us has an unrelated genetic twin somewhere out there. We just need to find that person for patients like Hallie,’’ said Amy Roseman, Texas donor coordinator for DKMS, an international non-profit working to defeat the disease.
Roseman said only two percent of the population has registered to be a potential donor, which includes a simple process of swabbing their cheek.
“The more people we register, who are willing, ready and able to help a patient, the better the chances,” she said.
When a bone marrow match is found, the subsequent outpatient procedure is relatively simple, with no lasting affects, according to Roseman.
“Those donors are a little bit sore,” she added. “But that soreness does go away…(while) that feeling of saving a life is permanent.”
Hallie said, “I hate it when I walk into that hospital and everybody’s looking at me. And the doctors come in all nervous and scared.”
When CBS11 first caught up with her, it was nearing Christmas and Hallie was excited.
She was hoping for one specific gift – a bone marrow match for herself, and for others like her.
“Yep,” she said, pointing to herself. “I want it to be mine so I can have more than just one (more) Christmas.”
And for that reason – still with that smile – she had a final thought for all of us:
“Get off that couch. Fly all the way to Texas if you have to. Come and swab!”
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If you want to reach CBS 11′s Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.