Henry Liukko-Sipi: Heaven and Hell
Almost four years ago, my wife Kirsti and I were sitting with our 18-month-old daughter, Laina, at the children’s clinic of the Helsinki University Hospital, and my heart was aching more than ever.
Laina had just been diagnosed with JMML leukaemia, and we were all, the whole family, beginning to prepare ourselves for her first stem cell transplant, which was performed in July 2016 using an American donor’s stem cells.
A five-month-long trip to the hospital and a bloody battle ensued. But there was worse to come for our daughter and us. It wasn’t over.
The worst of the worst came true and Laina’s leukaemia recurred.
We found a new stem cell donor, again via the Stem Cell Registry in the summer of 2017, this time in Germany. The unknown donor gave Laina and our whole family the greatest gift you could ever imagine. Hope for life and at least a small chance to get better. To live. Our gratitude has no limits.
At the time of the second stem cell transplant, I wrote a blog article entitled “Elämä on Laina” (“Life is a Loan”) on the website taivasjahelvetti.fi. In it I opened up about my family situation to both friends and strangers. More than 100,000 people read it. The feedback was enormous. Thanks to the article, we raised several tens of thousands of euros for children with cancer and their families through a campaign with the same name. For people facing the most devastating experience.
Gratifyingly, readers became interested in the Stem Cell Registry and in becoming a donor, and I received a lot of feedback from all over Finland, with people telling me the article had inspired them to join the registry. The article and sharing our story resulted in the outcome they deserve. I told everyone who registered as a donor that they may very well be saving someone’s life. Can there be anything more valuable than that?
During long hospital periods, sitting at Laina’s bedside, I saw in a very concrete way that blood to a leukaemia patient is like water to a healthy person. It is needed 24/7 and plenty of it, otherwise life will not continue. During Laina’s 300 days at the hospital, the bags of blood were changed frequently, and today I wish I could hug and reward lavishly every single person who tells me they have donated blood. Like the Stem Cell Registry, this is something that has far-reaching consequences and a true purpose, because it literally saves lives. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate and respect your unconditional helping of others more than you could ever imagine.
Right now, the Stem Cell Registry needs young men. That’s why I’m appealing to all the young men who read this article and have not yet joined the registry.
Take a moment to consider are you a man or Mickey Mouse?
Make a decision and donate blood: it may save someone’s life and, at the very least, will make you feel good. Action leads to results!
Perkele! Let’s do it!
The column has been published in the Stem Cell Registry’s magazine Soluista Elämää in 2020.