By River Plouffe Vogel, Free Press Staff
Some of you may have noticed a poster that’s been going up around both campuses. On it, there is a young woman with an infectious smile, slapping high fives and rocking the number nine jersey for the University of Southern Maine women’s soccer team. This young student, player and member of our USM community is Ally Little. Ally is a sophomore from Stoneham, Massachusetts and she is working towards a major in Athletic training. Ally has also recently been diagnosed with severe Aplastic Anemia. This is a rare and serious conditions, with fewer than 20,000 Americans being diagnosed per year. Aplastic Anemia can develop at any age, however often cases develop when people are in their teens and twenties. Although there are known causes, in half the cases usually the causes go unknown. Aplastic Anemia affects bone marrow and stem cells. Normally, bone marrow has 30–70% blood stem cells, but in aplastic anemia, these cells are mostly gone and replaced by fat. Treatment for Aplastic Anemia is varied and may include medications, blood transfusions or a stem cell transplant, also known as a bone marrow transplant. Ally is currently at home in Stoneham, in the process of figuring out the fastest and most effective steps towards treatment, but it is very likely she will need a stem cell transplant. Thus far Ally has been unable to find a match within her family, and there are no current 10/10 matches in the donor registries. Finding a match is imperative for Ally’s treatment.
Thankfully, in an incredible act of support, her teammates and the university rallied together, organized and will host a donor registry drive on February 8th. “When the team learned of Ally’s diagnosis they immediately wanted to help. It is hard to know what to do in these circumstances, but organizing a drive was an easy decision,” noted USM women’s soccer coach Lisa Petruccelli. “USM soccer is reaching out to other college teams, making posters, signing up to volunteer, and to be donors. The USM community and college soccer community responded immediately. We hope people will come and swab to be a potential donor.” The drives will take place on the Gorham campus at Costello Sports Complex Lobby from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m, and on the Portland campus at the Abromson Mezzanine from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If anyone needs directions to either location they are easily available on the universities websites and on campus maps that are spread throughout the university grounds in both Portland and Gorham. For any potential donor, registering is simple: if you are 18-44 years old, stop by one of the tables, fill out some basic paperwork and swab the inside of your cheek. Please spread the word any way you can, because the more people that show up the higher the chances of finding a potential donor, and giving hope to a wonderful member of our USM community. For more information about the condition, the treatment or the donor process please check out www.bethematch.org. Or contact the Huskies Women’s soccer office at 1-207-780-5328, or email Lisa Petruccelli at LISA.PETRUCCELLI@maine.edu , and finally join and share on Facebook at ALL for Ally Donor Registry Drive.