Swab a cheek, save a life during marrow drive Nov. 27

Help the Larsson family find a match for their son, Lukas, at Wednesday's bone marrow donor drives in Guttenberg. Lukas, 16, is pictured left, with his brother Max, 22, father Anders, mother Dena (Boardman), brother Axel, 18, and twin brother Oliver. (Photo submitted)


By Molly Moser

There are 12 million bone marrow donors in the national registry, but none so far have proved a match for 16-year-old Lukas Larsson, son of Anders and Dena (Boardman) Larsson.

Lukas was diagnosed with pediatric myelofibrosis, a blood disease so rare that only 50 cases have been documented worldwide. “Lukas does not have leukemia or cancer, and that’s the great news,” says mom Dena. A bone marrow transplant will cure her son, but until then, Lukas requires blood transfusions every two weeks – and probably more often as the disease progresses. 

Dena, the daughter of Rose Boardman and the late Joe Boardman, graduated from Guttenberg High School in 1978. She and her husband, Anders, met in Colorado. They got married and spent 12 years living in Sweden, where their four sons, Max (22), Axel (18), and twins Lukas and Oliver were born. Since 2002, the family has lived in Colorado. 

Before their son’s diagnosis, Dena and Anders remained blissfully uneducated on the topic of bone marrow transplants. “He’s never been sick,” says Dena. “He was born a healthy eight-pound twin, only one week early.” Since discovering Lukas’s illness, the family has accomplished something extraordinary.

With an abundance of media coverage, from television to radio and newspaper, the Larssons have organized several very successful bone marrow drives. “Normally they’re happy if they get ten people at these drives,” she explains. “We will hit 1,000, I have no doubt.” 

As the Larssons continue to search for a match for their son, they are hopeful that along the way, other lives will be saved. “There are thousands of people worldwide who are waiting for their donors. That’s why we had to get the word out. Every time we have a drive, I think, ‘I hope we saved a life,’” Dena told The Press.

Area residents have the opportunity to save a life by joining the marrow registry at one of two drives on Wednesday, Nov. 27. Kari Harbaugh, Dena’s niece, organized the drives. She underwent training at the University of Iowa to be able to collect samples herself. A simple cheek swab is the only thing required. “All it takes is one person to be a match,” says Dena.

When a match is found for Lukas Larsson, he will begin a five-day process requiring three rounds of very strong chemotherapy to prepare for transplant. Afterward, this young, passionate soccer player and talented skier will be hospitalized for up to eight weeks. 

For the one in 540 in the bone marrow registry who are called to be donors, the process is far simpler. “Being a donor is so much easier than you might think,” Dena says. “For 80% of donors, it’s just like giving blood. The other 20% have marrow taken from the hip while under anesthesia. They might miss a day or two of work or school.” 

Doctors believe Lukas acquired the disease rather than being born with it. His twin brother, Oliver, is being tested and may eventually prove a safe match. For now, the search continues.

Says Dena, “Lukas is just incredible. He’s so positive, and he’s just sunshine, that kid. He keeps us all going.”

To join the drive and save a life, participants need only be between the ages of 18 and 44. The first drive in Guttenberg will be held on Wed., Nov. 27, from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m at Clayton Ridge School. The second drive will take place from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the new location of the GMH Family Resource Center, 514 River Park Drive.

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