To meet Kailee Wells is to meet a typical all-American eight-year-old girl. She likes dresses, storybooks, and stickers. But, observes co-anchor Hannah Storm on The Early Show, Kailee's quiet bravery makes her extraordinary.
And her parents, Linda and Owen Wells, have been desperately trying to find the ultimate needle in a haystack: a bone marrow match. Kailee needs a transplant.
Their story began as a mid-life adventure. Linda and Owen had already raised three biological children in Albuquerque, N.M. when they decided to adopt a baby from China.
"I held her within two or three minutes, and she was crying and arching her back, and I started rubbing my cheek against hers, and she started rubbing back. And that's when I knew," Owen says, his voice cracking.
"And she dozed off in his arms, " Linda recalls. "It was just, it was incredible. It was, it was beautiful."
They had all of the enthusiasm of first time parents.
But when Kailee turned five, she got sick. First, a dangerously high fever of 105 degrees. Then, a bloody nose that wouldn't stop, described by Linda as a "horror scene."
Kailee was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia: Her bone marrow wasn't producing the blood cells or platelets her body needed to fight infection.
"The doctor in the conference room said that she had about a 15 percent chance of surviving it," Linda tells Storm.
What was Linda's reaction?
"It was stunning at first, and then I just got up. I was angry. And I remember pounding the table and I said, 'No, this is not going to happen. This is not going to happen.' "
Linda and Owen went to work researching doctors and hospitals across the country, until they had a phone call with Dr. David Margolis in Milwaukee.
"I remember a very scared parent, which is very often the case with this rare disease," Margolis says.
Linda picks up the story: "(Margolis) said, 'If you're asking whether I save your child, I can't tell you that. If you're asking me if I'll do the best I can for her, I can tell you that I will do the best for her as if she were one of my own children.' "
Those were the words Linda and Owen needed to hear.
So, they left their family and jobs behind and moved halfway across the country to be near the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and Margolis, all the while hoping for a miracle.
Kailee, Storm explains, needed a bone marrow transplant. But of the 4.5 million people registered in the United States in the National Marrow Donor Program, not one was a match.
The best chance for a match is a biological relative. But no one knew who Kailee's birth parents were. The Wells decided to go looking.
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