By Lisa Manookian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
PHILADELPHIA — Charlotte Conybear is a charming 4-year-old girl who suffers from aplastic anemia, a life-threatening disorder that results in the failure of her bone marrow to produce adequate blood cells. She is currently receiving transfusions and may be in need of a bone marrow transplant. As of yet, there are no matches for her among her family and nor on either the National Bone Marrow Registry or the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
As bone marrow matches are dependent on genetics, ethnicity is a key component to finding a match.
The tide may turn, as on Easter Sunday, 12 Armenian churches throughout the country held bone marrow drives in hopes that someone out there will be able to give little Charlotte a new lease on life.
Charlotte Conybear’s uncle, Dean Jerrehian, said: “It’s amazing how the Armenian Church drive came about. We held a small registration drive in conjunction with a trade show I was attending in San Francisco in January. Louise Johns, from San Francisco, who also had aplastic anemia — and received a life saving bone marrow transplant — heard about the drive and, even though she had never met Charlotte or our family, decided to “pay it forward” and hold a drive for Charlotte at her pilates studio. At that drive, Aline Aghababian, an Armenian-American, who also does not know anyone in our family, heard that Charlotte was more likely to find a match among people of Armenian descent and organized registration drives at all the San Francisco Armenian Churches on Easter Sunday. Once Aline got the ball rolling, we reached out to Armenian churches in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington and Los Angeles.”
Volunteers from each parish conducted the drive following Easter Sunday services. Participants answered a few questions, filled out a form and swabbed their cheeks with something resembling a long-stemmed Q-tip. At St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Armenian Church in Wynnewood, Penn. — where little Charlotte’s great-grandfather, Aram K. Jerrehian Sr. was a co-founder and godfather, more than 87 people registered. Volunteers bar-coded the forms and Q-tips early in the morning, well prepared for the onslaught of support that followed immediately after services.