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LA Daily News Article - Marrow Match Sought For Girl

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Marrow match sought for girl
Child actor ill with leukemia

 
BY ERIC LEACH, Staff Writer
(805) 583-7602
 
March 17, 2007
 
SIMI VALLEY - Hailey Joy Kent and her brother Ryan are twins and child actors. But while one is healthy and thriving, the other is fighting for her life.

The twins were born June 6, but at just 4 months old, Hailey developed a low-grade fever and began vomiting. A few tests later, doctors gave her parents the bad news - acute lymphocytic leukemia.

She has been undergoing chemotherapy off and on for months at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is helping organize two drives in Simi Valley through the National Marrow Donor Program to help her and others who need transplants.

"We thought that she had the flu or something," said Hailey's father, Rick, who along with his wife, Maria, has been spending as much time as possible with Hailey at the hospital.

"The staff here at Childrens Hospital is just amazing," he said. "The nurses go the extra distance. Maria is pretty much here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They really are great people here."

Hailey and Ryan have been getting calls to appear on television shows, but Hailey has been unable to do so. And since they play the same character as twins, they always work together.

"She's been sick and losing weight," her mother said. "We need to get her back into remission so we can start the bone marrow."

Her father said the nurses at Childrens Hospital gathered around the television set to watch her when she and her brother appeared on an episode of "Grey's Anatomy." They've also had parts in "Medium" and "Standoff."

Hailey's agent also represents child actors on the television series "General Hospital," so in addition to the Simi Valley marrow donor events, a July 13 luau to raise money for leukemia patients and to screen potential marrow donors will be held at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City with some of the "General Hospital" child actors.

Information about the "General Hospital" event is available at ghkidsevent.tripod.com. That Web site has information specifically on Hailey under the heading "Meet Hailey."

She needs blood donors now, said Amber McCarty, a campaign manager in Ventura County for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Donors who have O-negative blood can contribute to Hailey directly at Childrens Hospital.

"She can't receive a marrow transplant until she gets into remission," McCarty said. "We need blood to keep her healthy now. But in the bigger picture it's the marrow match that's going to save her life."

"To get tested for marrow, it's simply a cheek swab."

Dad Rick Kent is a construction project manager who has been working in the L.A. area recently, allowing him to visit his daughter.

"My wife spends the week here and I spend the weekends and drop by every chance I get," he said at the hospital.

Hailey and her brother got into show business when their parents found out there was a demand for twins as child actors in Hollywood.

Television producers like using twins, and when they were younger the 9-month-olds looked alike, so they could alternate playing the same character even though one was a boy and the other a girl, their father said.

It's the same way Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of Sherman Oaks got their start, alternately acting as the same character to help comply with child labor laws.

Everyone in Hailey's family has already been tested for a bone marrow match, including Ryan, and none of them are suitable.

Officials said more than 200,000 people in the United States alone have leukemia and related blood cancers, and another 35,000 U.S. residents are expected to be diagnosed this year.

But survival rates have improved from just 14 percent in 1960 to better than 49 percent today, thanks to advances in medical treatment and efforts like the National Marrow Donor Program.

"She's just an amazing child," Hailey's father said. "She goes through hell pretty much, but will end up smiling."

Get involved

A bone marrow donor drive March 24 will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ralphs supermarket, 2726 E. Los Angeles Ave. in Simi Valley.

A drive May 12 will be held at the Simi Valley Street Fair on Cochran Street between Sequoia and Galena avenues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The child actor's luau to raise money for leukemia patients will be held at the Sportsmen's Lodge, 12825 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. It will include a blood drive and marrow screening from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

For more information, call Amber McCarty, the campaign manager for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, at (805) 201-7150, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles at (323) 660-2450, or Holly Collier of the National Marrow Donor Program at (714) 800-1612.