‘It just seems like magic’: Gabriola family amazed infant son finds 1 in 39 million donor match


Larisa Bothma breathed a sigh of relief Monday while holding her baby boy Arend, after getting news she never expected so soon.

“It just seems like magic really, like what are the chances,” said Larisa Bothma, via Zoom from the family’s Gabriola Island home.

“It really makes me have faith in our big human family,” said the mother of two.

The nine-month-old Gabriola Island boy has been diagnosed with a rare blood disease called chronic granulomatous and is in dire need of a stem cell transplant. But his uncommon ethnicity, due to his parents Latvian and Afrikaner descent, made the odds of finding a match donor, astronomically low.

“I don’t know the percentage but I know the likelihood of winning the lottery is one in 16 million and his match is one in 39 million, so,” said Bothma.

A match wasn’t made on any international registries, and unless Arend Bothma received a stem cell transplant, he would have to continue receiving medications three times a day that are extremely hard on his liver and kidneys.

So the family reached out through CHEK News and social media to encourage Canadians of minority populations to register for the Canadian Stem Cell Registry, if not to help Arend, for someone else.

“Canada has a lot of immigrants and it’s not high on the priority list of immigrants,” Arend’s dad Emil Bothma, told CHEK News on March 6.

“My whole effort was just to get people to join, to raise awareness,” said Bothma.

But within weeks they got the call a match had been found for Arend. Bothma doesn’t know yet if it was her appeal that triggered the person to sign up, but says she’s never been so sure how many good people are out there.

“I can’t believe how much people want to help other people, that just goes through my mind non-stop,” she said.

The family plans to meet with a transplant team in coming weeks, to plan the next steps for Arend, now that their greatest hope has been answered. They encourage everyone they can to register as transplant donors to help others going.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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