12-Round Fight

Champion boxer's daughter battles rare marrow disease.

Briana+Donis+about+to+go+in+for+another+scan+while+smiling+and+showing+her+Longhorn+Pride.

Yvonne Donis

Briana Donis about to go in for another scan while smiling and showing her Longhorn Pride.

John Cañamar, Sports Editor

With 28 professional fights and years inside the ropes, former North American Boxing Federation Super Bantamweight Champion David Donis knows how to attack an opponent.

However, the opponent he currently faces does not have a mean left hook. It is not even a person … and he’s forced to be the corner man in this fight.

Donis’ 19-year-old daughter, Briana Donis, is in the midst of a 12-round fight against aplastic anemia — with a smile on her face and the determination to go the distance.

Briana radiates a tremendous amount of positive energy and says, “I know I was placed here for a purpose. If that purpose is to spread the word about aplastic anemia, then that is what I intend to do.”

Briana was a senior at Mayde Creek High School a year ago. She said she noticed one day that she was always tired, thinking that maybe she was taking on too much with school and work.

She later noticed bruising, even though she was not doing any physical activities that would cause bruising. Briana noticed other little signs that individually meant little until you looked at everything as a big picture.

“I thought to myself, I should not be bleeding this much from a paper cut. It just would not stop bleeding.” Briana expressed speaking about the different warning signs she was picking up on.

Briana’s mother, Yvonne Donis, took her to the doctor at the advice of her mother. After a routine checkup and some blood work, the doctor told them that they would have an answer in two days on what was happening to Briana.

The results came back and the doctor told Briana that he had good and bad news: The bad news was she had been diagnosed with aplastic anemia, and the good news was that there is a cure.

Briana Donis sporting her favorite hat along with her wonderful smile.

John Cañamar
Briana Donis sporting her favorite hat along with her wonderful smile.

According to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, aplastic anemia is a condition when the bone marrow’s stem cells do not make enough new blood cells. Most often, all three types of blood cells — red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets – are affected.

The disease occurs in only one to two people per million annually — an estimated 300 to 600 new cases across all age groups in the U.S.

It leaves affected persons feeling fatigued and with a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding.

Rare and serious, it can develop at any age. It may occur suddenly, or it may occur slowly and get worse over a long period of time. Although associated with some cancers and cancer treatments, the disease is not considered a type of cancer.

Treatment for aplastic anemia may include medications, blood transfusions or a stem cell transplant.

With that news, Donis family’s lives changed. The biggest change at first for Briana was that she was not able to complete high school in the normal sense. She was no longer able to attend her school because of her immune system is weakened by the disease. However, she was able to walk across the stage for graduation.

Brian wearing her respiratory mask while shopping.

Yvonne Donis
Brian wearing her respiratory mask while shopping.

Briana is one of the lucky few that was matched with a donor for a bone marrow transplant.

She was matched with a donor because the donor took the time to register with the Bone Marrow Registry at www.bethematch.org.

The process of being registered is quite simple. The hardest step is the first one of actually going to the website and answering a brief questionnaire. The following step is to swab your cheek with the provided swab stick (a medical Q-tip). Place the swap stick in the provided box. Finally drop the prepaid postage box in a mailbox and Be The Match will do the rest.

Once a donor was matched with Briana, she started a regiment of different types of chemotherapy.

This process weakened her immune system to the point where she could not be around more than one or two people at a time. Because of this side effect the Donis family is living in two homes-Briana and Yvonne in an apartment near the hospital and David and Briana’s two younger sisters at home near Katy.

Briana doing a yoga pose while hooked up with "Robi."

Yvonne Donis
Briana doing a yoga pose while hooked up with “Robi.”

Finally, December arrived for the much-needed bone marrow transplant. Briana was prepped and with a process similar to receiving an IV. The bag of bone marrow was hung on “Robi” and then pumped into her veins.

Robi is the name that Briana gave the stand that holds the IV bags and pumps that is connected to her every time that she is admitted to the hospital.

“December 18 is my new birthday, because it is the day I received my transplant which has given me a chance at life,” Briana tells people she meets.

The transplant worked well at first. Two weeks after believing that her prayers had been answered, she was slapped with the fact that the transplant was a failure and her body rejected the donor’s bone marrow.

Within this past month, Briana was given the news that there are two possible donors that could be a match for her.

This is the best news that she could hope for even though she has to endure a new round of chemotherapy before a transplant can be performed once again.

This back and forth battle that Briana is in with AA keeps throwing more twist and turns at her than a roller coaster.

On Sunday, Briana had four biopsies. One of which came back positive for a fungal infection. This finding will keep Briana hospitalized for several months while the fungus is removed. Until the doctors are able to remove the fungus, she will not be able to get a transplant.

“The only thing that I ask is for you to spread the message of how important it is for people to donate blood and register with the BMR,” Briana said.

The other thing that she asked, was for everyone not to feel pity for her but to help spread light onto the disease known as aplastic anemia.

You can donate blood at your local blood bank in honor of Briana by giving the center her name. The blood will not go directly to her, but with every donation up to three lives can be saved.

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To find the nearest blood bank go to www.GiveBlood.org.

To follow Briana’s battle you can like her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BrivsAplasticAnemia