Heather Lacasse issued a plea for people to register as a stem cell donor, while her boyfriend Jacob Gowler waits for a match. (Contributed photo)

Maple Ridge woman ask people to donate stem cells while boyfriend waits for a match

Donations added to worldwide registry

A young Maple Ridge woman is pleading people to register as stem cell donors while she waits for a suitable match for her boyfriend.

Heather Lacasse, 23, who spoke to The News this week, after sharing her quest for help on Facebook.

Her boyfriend Jacob Gowler, also 23, has aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia is an auto-immune disease in which the body fails to produce white and red blood cells and platelets in a sufficient number. Blood cells are produced in bone marrow by stem cells.

Lacasse said her boyfriend first learned he had the condition after getting his blood tested a few years ago.

SEE ALSO: Surrey teen rallies stem cell donors to help with ‘desperate’ need for South Asians

“He could have been living with it for a couple of years before his system was crashing,” she said.

Some of the symptoms, she added, are fatigue, headaches, and he has a suppressed immune system.

“So, like, if he went out and even got a cold, it would kill him.”

Gowler went through two rounds of immuno-suppressive therapy (ATG treatment), which has not taken. A third round is not an option, she wrote on Facebook.

“Usually, if it was going to work, it would have worked about six months in,” she said.

When Lacasse first met Gowler he was about halfway through his first ATG treatment.

“They thought it was going to work. When I met him he was working out, he was fit, he was happy, he was really enthusiastic and optimistic. He told me he had this condition, but he was going through treatment and he would be fine. He obviously had big plans for the future,” she said.

“When I saw him go through the second treatment, that’s when I saw the mental aspect of it. He was told he can’t workout, he can’t do sports, he can’t go hang out with a bunch of people… You see the collapse of the mental health of a young happy go-lucky guy. That was the hardest part.”

Gowler requires a bone marrow transplant – which, if successful, could result in a wave of cells being reproduced.

SEE ALSO: B.C. teen donating stem cells for brother’s second fight with cancer

“Right now, what we have is a 50 per cent sibling match and a nine out of 10 match from a stranger. But nine out of 10 isn’t very good. He needs a 95 per cent or higher,” Lacasse said. “If he goes ahead with a bone marrow transplant, with the options he has, he’s got a 70-30 chance. He’s got a 30 per cent chance of dying on the table and 70 per cent chance of pulling through surgery.”

Lacasse described getting tested to become a donor as a painless, simple procedure that can be done at home. The first step to register as a potential stem cell donor is to do so on the blood.ca website, she said.

“The registry will send you a stem cell testing kit, it’s basically a mouth swab, (and) you send it back,” she said. “The problem is that you can’t just register to see if you’re eligible to him. You go into a worldwide system, there’s no way around that, unfortunately.”

According to Canada Blood Services, its transplant centre reviews the donor application and suitable donors are requested to make a stem cell donation to the stem cell and marrow registry.

Lacasse said they only have about a year to find a match, “if we don’t, the older he gets the less likely it is to work.”


• If there is more to this issue, please let us know about it. Email us at editor@mapleridgenews.com. We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

blood donorHealthcare

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows grads will be celebrating virtually this year

In-person commencement ceremonies for this years grads will take place sometime during the next school year

VIDEO: Maple Ridge’s Kanaka Creek park expands

Metro Vancouver adds almost four hectares to the 450-hectare regional park

Body of Maple Ridge man recovered near Harrison Lake

21-year-old last seen on May 16 when he fell into Silver Creek

LETTER: Petition author angered by Pitt Meadows mayor

One opponent of the North Lougheed redevelopment calls Bill Dingwall’s reaction ‘dismissive’

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping The News to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

VIDEO: Police look for suspect seen tripping elderly woman in Burnaby

The elderly woman was walking near the SkyTrain station when she was randomly tripped

Chilliwack teachers, assistants concerned with lack of PPE guidelines ahead of school reopening

As schools get ready to open, many worry measures won’t be enough to protect students from COVID-19

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

Most Read