Hailee Hutton — her hair colored in bright hues of purple and blue — is a cool kid.
Her family describes the 14-year-old as a daredevil. She considers herself a Slytherin, the cunning and ambitious folk in the Harry Potter adventures.
“I’ve always told her she’s one in a million,” said her mother, Hollie Hutton. “But she didn’t have to go and get sick to prove it.”
Hailee truly is one in a million, since she was diagnosed in October with severe aplastic anemia. The rare condition, also described as bone marrow failure, is causing her body to stop producing the blood cells she needs to survive.
“The doctor said it was like I won the bad luck lotto,” Hailee said.
Since the teen was diagnosed, the Key Peninsula community has raised more than $10,000 for the Hutton family through multiple fund-raising events and a public GoFundMe Page called “#HaileeStrong!”
Hailee’s journey to recovery began with a kick to the face.
She was visiting a friend and eating sour gummy candies when the friend’s little brother came in and decided he wanted the candy for himself.
“And I was like, ‘Oh, no way,’” Hailee said. “So we started to wrestle and he accidentally kneed me in the face.”
Within minutes a large bruise started to cover the side of Hailee’s face and forehead. When she went home her mom became worried and took her to the emergency room, where a doctor gave Hailee a blood test.
“I remember she came in and said, ‘You need a new doctor’ and then left,” Hailee recalled. “Then we met our new doctor and he said, ‘Hailee, you either have leukemia or aplastic anemia.’”
For Hailee, the rest of the conversation is a blur. She felt foggy and dizzy. Her mother, who realized the severity of the situation, called her husband, Nick Hutton.
Hailee was taken to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma for more tests, which included taking a sample of her bone marrow. A couple days later the doctors confirmed Hailee had severe aplastic anemia.
They gave her medicine and transfusions to fight infection and help her create enough blood cells. But the only way to cure the condition was to have a bone marrow transplant.
Hailee’s older sister, Taylor, was tested to see whether she could donate bone marrow to her little sister.
She wasn't a match.
“It’s only a 30 percent chance between siblings,” Hollie Hutton said.
While they looked for a match, doctors prescribed medication and immunotherapy treatments for Hailee. Because of this, she couldn't attend her school and stayed home while also visiting the doctor two or three times a week.
“I ended up resigning from my job,” Hollie Hutton said. “There was no way with how much care she needs and the doctor visits for me to keep working.”
Hailee said she doesn’t remember the first couple of months, citing loss of memory as a side effect of some of her medication.
“We remember it," her mother said. "She mostly just cried.”
In the last two months, Hailee's blood cell count has risen and she's started to feel better. She went back to school before summer vacation and started seeing more friends.
Though her anemia might go into remission, Hailee says she knows she will eventually need a bone marrow transplant.
“She has 9,000 matches,” Hollie Hutton said. “Which is amazing. But we are waiting for her to get sick again before we start narrowing down to find her perfect match.”
When it comes time for the transplant, Hailee and her mom will move to Seattle for about four months so the teen can attend rehab and be monitored closely by her doctors.
Refusing to lose Hailee
When word about Hailee’s condition spread, the Key Peninsula community started raising money to help supplement the Huttons' lost income and to pay for Hailee’s medical bills.
“2017 was a bad year for our family,” Hollie Hutton said. “We had four different car accidents, our washing machine broke, our dishwasher broke, our refrigerator broke and leaked over the floor and then our daughter broke.”
With the family’s income cut in half and bills piling up, acts of support and love from the community has helped keep the family’s faith afloat.
Key Peninsula Cares, a local nonprofit, hosted a golf tournament that raised a few thousand dollars for Hailee. A fund-raising concert was held in Ollala.
“I remember Hailee came to me and said, ‘Mom I didn’t realize this many people loved me,’” Hollie Hutton said, wiping her eyes. “And I just though, ‘How did you not know? You are amazing.’ She has grown up so much from this experience.”
The family is refusing to lose Hailee and intends to do whatever it can to give her and long and healthy life.
“Sometimes we’ll be out and I’ll be doing normal things and feeling good,” Hailee said. “But then I take my medicine and remember, ‘Oh, right. I'm sick.’
"But that’s not going to stop me. I want to do too much to let this stop me.”
How to help
Anyone interested in becoming a bone marrow donor can sign up at www.bethematch.org, the country's largest bone marrow donor registry. Be The Match prefers healthy donors between the ages of 18 and 44. Information about donor guidelines and how to become a registered donor is available at bit.ly/2tSv9KC.
The #HaileeStrong! GoFundMe page has reached $10,000 toward its $30,000 goal. Donors also can join Hailee Hutton’s update Facebook page.