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Amy's Army grows

More than 1,000 people join legion of people hoping to save a girl's life

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

More than 1,143 people have joined the army that is searching for a donor who could provide the stem-cell transplant that could save the life of a 12-year-old Mt. Lebanon girl living with a rare form of leukemia.

Tony Tye, Post-Gazette
Valerie Gleason of Bellaire, Ohio, is screened last Wednesday by medical assistant Pamela Morris, right, of Homewood, at the USSteel Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh, to see if she can donate bone marrow to Amy Katz, 12, of Mt. Lebanon. Amy was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia last year. The only known cure for her cancer is a stem cell transplant. The event was organized by Amy's Army, a group of volunteers.
Click photo for larger image.

Amy Katz has chronic myelogenous leukemia and 1,143 people turned out for an Amy's Army blood and marrow donor drive last Wednesday at the U.S. Steel Tower, Downtown. Their blood was drawn and will be tested to see whether their marrow is a match for Katz or other people who need stem-cell transplants.

Through 32 local drives, Amy's Army of volunteers has lined up more than 4,000 potential donors. Of the first 3,000 donors tested, none was a match for Amy, but seven were a potential match for other people.

Amy was diagnosed last fall with a form of leukemia that rarely afflicts children. Though she is responding well to chemotherapy and has been attending school throughout her treatment, a transplant is thought to be her best chance for a cure.

"The turnout Downtown was just amazing," said Lisa Katz, Amy's mother, "including Northwestern Mutual, who gave us 62 volunteers -- agents and support staff. Some of them worked for us the entire nine hours."

Amy's Army includes a core of 152 volunteers, many of them friends and neighbors of the Katz family. But new volunteers are always stepping up, "including people we had never met before, and we are just so touched," Lisa Katz said.

"Right after Amy was diagnosed, I met a woman whose baby had died shortly after birth. She said there was nothing anyone could do to save her child, but she wanted to be part of the effort to save someone else's child."

The next drive is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Beth Shalom temple, 5915 Beacon St., Squirrel Hill. Contact Sue Stonick at SStonick@itxm.org to set up an appointment.

Other donor drives are scheduled for Dec. 12 at Beth El Congregation of South Hills, 1900 Cochran Road, Mt. Lebanon, and Dec. 19 at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 799 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.

Anyone who calls Central Blood Bank to schedule an appointment to give blood can also ask that blood also be drawn for testing for Amy and other patients who need transplants. The number to call is 1-800-310-9551. In the South Hills, the blood is collected at St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon.

See the Web site -- http://www.amysarmy.org/ -- for further details or call toll free 877-AID-4-AMY.


(Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1512.)


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