A Sacramento teenager with a fatal blood disease has died despite her mother's unsuccessful efforts to find a bone morrow match in China.
Katie Cramer, 16, was adopted at 14 months of age from China. She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a fatal blood disease, in 2006.
She died Thursday at home, her mother Sherrie Cramer said Sunday.
"Since April when she knew she was relapsing, we were battling this," her mother said. "But the last two-and-a-half months she felt pain and sickness and isolation."
The family began searching for a bone marrow donor after Katie's diagnosis four years ago.
They faced poor odds in finding a suitable match. While the transplant might have saved her, Asians make up only 7 percent of the bone marrow registry in the United States.
In July, Sherrie Cramer traveled alone to China. She spent a combined 10 days in Beijing and in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Province, and in Liuzhou, her daughter's birthplace, where a marrow match was considered more likely.
"I went there with very limited plans because I did not know how to access their (donor) system," Cramer said. She found help from Roberta Lipson, chairman of United Family Hospitals in China, who set up a meeting with Beijing's Red Cross, the agency that oversees China's donor program.
"They reluctantly agreed to expedite a few samples that were potential matches," the mother recalled. None was suitable.
Still, Cramer said she was hopeful during the visit.
"I saw on the local level they were very touched and moved," she said. "The director of the Red Cross in her city was very kind and wanted to help. But they also faced a cultural inhibition to give away any part of their body," especially to a stranger.
When Cramer returned home, her daughter's treatment was continuing. She had cord blood transplants at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. But those treatments showed no signs of arresting the disease.
By then Katie had sustained heart damage from her 2006 treatments, a weakened immune system, serial viruses and sepsis, or infectious agents in the bloodstream.
"She was not the kind of girl who complains or gets easily frustrated," Cramer said. "And we just everyday kept hoping and waiting. And that day never came."
The family then returned Katie to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Roseville, where she could more easily see her family -- including a younger brother and sister -- and friends. On New Year's Day, Katie's doctor gave the family his assessment: She would not get better.
"We had to tell her that and we asked her if she wanted to stay in the hospital for her last days," her mother recalled. "She said she wanted to see her dog. So she came home."
In the days that followed, with hospice support, the house was always filled with visitors.
"There were times when we had prayer and singing," she said.
"Her dad and I were with her when she stopped breathing," she added. "It was very beautiful and peaceful. We know all of the things she fought. It's a relief that she's not in pain and not sick."
(Contact reporter Loretta Kalb at lkalb(at)sacbee.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)