Patient Story

Community rallies for teacher’s transplant

Fintona unites to support a young mum needing a stem cell transplant, with over a thousand signing up on the DKMS register.


DKMS supported stem cell donor registration drives on 23 and 24 March at Denamona Primary School in Fintona, Northern Ireland, organised by the family, friends and colleagues of Tracy McKenna, 35, who teaches at the school.

An incredible turnout of 1,491 came to the event in a beautiful display of support for Tracy, a mum of two from Omagh, who has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and needs a stem cell transplant to survive.

An emotional thank you from Tracy

Tracy McKenna and husband

Tracy shared, “It has been a very emotional weekend, and I am completely blown away and overwhelmed by the support and response from my community. Today proved how fortunate I am to live in such a kind, caring, and generous community. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to DKMS, Janet Burke (the head teacher at Denamona Primary School), my husband Mark, family, friends, the amazing volunteers, and all the kind people who came to register and show support”.

The event got off to a flying start with 600 registrations within four hours on Saturday prompting DKMS to fly in more swabs. On both days, people patiently queued around the block to join the stem cell register as potential donors for Tracy and others with blood cancer.

Peter, who was one of the many, said: “I’ve been truly touched by Tracy’s story and came along to register and hope our efforts today will help Tracy and others like her.” Leanne, who also signed up, said: “It‘s great to see so many other people come out for the event; I hope this leads to Tracy finding a match, and other people in her situation.”

Over 50 people volunteered to help at the event. One of them, Kaliesha, shared, "I'm hoping we can find Tracy a match today. She has been a vital part of my life and my biggest inspiration. As long as we can find her and others like her a match, I'll be satisfied with today's outcome."

Attendees at a DKMS registration drive
Registration drive event
Young man swabbing at DKMS event
People at the DKMS stem cell drive

Remarkable achievements

DKMS also received a further 1,336 online requests for kits, and over £10,000 was raised over the weekend. DKMS spokesperson Sophia Oriolowo, who was at both events, says: “It was so moving to witness people who’d travelled for more than an hour just to register in person for Tracy. The sight of people patiently lining up in long queues was simply remarkable. What a tribute to the power of a tight-knit and supportive community in Northern Ireland: thank you Fintona! Registering as a stem cell donor means you’re joining a chain of hope for people with blood cancer, like Tracy, who need a stem cell transplant.”

Be like Fintona!

If you couldn't make it to the event but are interested in registering, you can still sign up here. A simple cheek swab has the potential to give Tracy and other people living with blood cancer and blood disorders a second chance at life.

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