Cranbrook man stricken with aplastic anemia

Donations could help family of Gord McDonald who fell ill suddenly and who is still in Calgary receiving transfusions

  • Dec. 4, 2014 2:00 p.m.

In September, Gord McDonald suddenly came down with flu-like symptoms which persisted for weeks. He went to the hospital in Cranbrook on Oct. 19, but they couldn’t give him a diagnosis. He was then taken to Calgary Foothills Hospital. It’s now been a few months and Gord has gone through blood transfusions, biopsies and numerous other tests to try to diagnose the ailment and begin treatment.

“He was complaining that he was tired and thought it was the flu,” Cheryl McDonald said. “His brother came out and said, ‘you look a little yellow, you need to see the doctor.'”

When admitted to the hospital in Calgary, his organs were enlarged and he had hepatitis and a general weakness in his immune system.

The doctors were testing him for Hemophagocytic lymphohisiocytosis (HLH) and Aplastic Anemia (AA). His wife, Cheryl, said doctors now think that it is Aplastic Anemia.

Aplastic Anemia is a disease in which the bone marrow, and the blood stem cells that reside there, are damaged. This causes a deficiency of all three components of blood — plasma, red blood cells and platelets.

Gord has been having to get transfusions to replace his platelets as the affected bone marrow is not producing them.

“They gave him a unit of blood, but he’s had platelets given just about everyday this week,” she said. “Not until his platelets are at a certain level, and he’s stable and able to make his own, they’re not going to let him come home, because he needs platelets.”

She said he is starting to make the platelets, but they are still breaking down.

Bruce Smith works at Alpine Toyota and knew Gord, because Cheryl was working there at the time. Smith also sold Gord a truck back in 2008.

“Cheryl phoned me and said he’d been rushed to Foothills Hospital with an unknown illness,” Smith said. “That came out of the blue.”

Some of the staff at Alpine Toyota met with the family one night after hours. They designed a pamphlet that talks about Gord’s illness and current predicament. Smith said Gord ran a renovation business, but now has no means of income or disability payments to rely on. Cheryl also lost her job as a result of time away supporting Gord. The bills are now piling up. Their mortgage also did not have disability on it, only life insurance.

Smith is asking people to donate to the McDonald family, so that they can stay close to him through this difficult time.

Smith noted that one of his twin daughters was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia when she was young.

“It’s a pretty awful thing — your bone marrow stops working,” he said. “He’s getting tons and tons of transfusions for platelets — that’s one of the things that bone marrow stops doing is manufacturing platelets.”

His daughter had a fraternal twin who is biologically identical and a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant.

Cheryl said the forecast does look hopeful. Doctors told her that Gord could be home in six weeks if his condition begins to stabilize, and he may not need a bone marrow transplant. It could take months before his body is able to produce platelets as it normally would.

To donate you can send an e-money transfer to (use “gord” as the answer to the security question) or drop off cash donations or cheques at Alpine Toyota, made out to Gord McDonald.