Bone marrow drive supports local teen

Courtlynn Havard went to the doctor last year thinking she had kidney problems. It turned out she had two rare and life-threatening blood diseases called aplastic anemia and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.

The 10th grade student from Winnsboro hasn’t been able to go to school or play sports since she was diagnosed in October of 2020. She plays softball and soccer, and said it’s been tough not getting to do the things she loves.

“It just takes all of that energy and all that potential that you put into the work and it just gets taken away from you,” Harvard said in an interview with WGNO.

A result of the diseases is bone marrow failure and Havard needs a transplant as soon as possible, but she hasn’t been able to find a match yet. 

Her family, in partner with an international nonprofit called DKMS, has been holding bone marrow drives in an attempt to find one.

Last Thursday one of these drives was held on ULM’s campus. About 90 people drove through and quickly swabbed their cheeks in hopes of being the match Havard is looking for.

Chrissie Autin, director of event services, helped organize the event along with Circle K and SGA. She said the process of figuring out if they’ve found a match could take months, but she’s proud of the students who turned out.

“In true Warhawk fashion, our students once again showed their eagerness to help others in a time of need,” Autin said.

Tyler Lunsford, a nursing student and member of SGA, helped people at the drive do their paperwork and instructed them on how to swab themselves.

Lunsford said that once you swab yourself you stay in the system for life. He has a cousin with Leukemia, and said that even if the people who got tested Thursday aren’t a match for Havard, they could be a match for someone else in need.

One of the students who got tested was Abigail Ward, a freshman radiologic technology major who knows Havard personally. She went to the same high school and graduated with Havard’s two older sisters who now attend ULM.

“This sweet girl needs a match so she can continue her favorite things,” Ward said.

Havard’s mom, Jaimie, said Courtlynn is most looking forward to getting back out on the field with her “softball sisters.” 

Jaimie also said that Courtlynn’s condition has gone from moderate to severe. But focusing on helping other kids with blood diseases has kept her daughter positive and motivated.

“If she can just keep focusing on them and their stories and bringing awareness, it really helps her not to dwell on her challenges,” Jaimie Havard said.

If you missed the drive on campus, there’s also a virtual donor drive on the DKMS website where you can request a swab kit to be sent to your home.