Lansdale Teen Recovering from Leukemia Hosts Blood, Platelet, Marrow Drive Saturday

Matthew Knoebel, 13, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in October 2012. Now in remission, he and his family are hosting a drive this weekend to help the five million that need blood.

Matthew Knoebel, right, and Christina Simpson.
Matthew Knoebel, right, and Christina Simpson.
Life is a lot different today for 13-year-old Matthew Knoebel since a life-shattering acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis on Oct. 27, 2012.
He spent 154 nights in the hospital at CHOP and received 29 pints of red blood cells and 30 units of platelets within a six-month span from October 2012 to May 2013. 
All in all, that's 59 units of blood, 59 donations, 59 volunteers, 59 angels, 59 heroes. 
In 14 months, the Lansdale teen has been the recipient of not only an outpouring of support and donations from friends, family and strangers, but also lifesaving, 100-percent donor DNA via a bone marrow transplant.
Nearly 10 months later, Knoebel is in remission; the donor, a woman whose identity has never been revealed, was a 9/10 HLA match. She was internationally located and coordinated through the organization Be The Match.
Last year, Knoebel's family organized a bone marrow registry and blood and platelet drive at Corpus Christi Church in Upper Gwynedd. 
On Saturday, which coincides with Knoebel's 14th birthday, he and his family are doing it again at Father Doyle Social Hall at the church at 900 Sumneytown Pike.
The blood drive and Be The Match bone marrow registry will run 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The platelet drive will be in a platelet drive bus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To schedule an appointment for Saturday, go to www.redcrossblood.org and use sponsor code "Matt Knoebel" or call 1-800-RED CROSS.
To donate platelets, text your name to 215-872-1007 in order to get scheduled for Saturday. 
No appointment necessary for the bone marrow registry, which only requires a cheek swab.
Knoebel's mother, Christina Simpson, said her son would not have survived one week without a transfusion. Knoebel was one of 5 million patients that need blood in the U.S. every year. 
"There are hundreds of people out there looking for matches, and they may die before one is found," Simpson said.
Today, Knoebel is free of cancer and leukemia, but the effects of his treatments are ongoing.
He is on high doses of prednisone and suffering from bad leg and knee pain. When he moves around, it's always on crutches. 
There is also the internal damage: There is damage to his heart, specifically decreased functioning. Lately, he has been having a rare reaction to drugs called DRESS Syndrome, which only adds to the complications.
His doctor appointments are brutal. He and Simpson are at the doctor's many times a month, sometimes many times a week.
"Matches of mixed ethnicity are extremely rare and are needed badly," Simpson said. "I have a lot of new friends whose children have been transplanted with double cord blood and stem cell and cord blood mixes from parents because they can't find matches for them."
Simpson said that's why donating is so important: It can be agonizing for a loved one to wait months to hear there is a match for his or her child.
"I can't imagine if they told me he had none," she said.


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