Published December 26, 2013
At 13, Julia Jenkins doesn't always see eye-to-eye with her three little brothers. They can be rowdy and more than a little competitive. But the Jenkins kids share a connection that runs deep.
Julia Jenkins watched one brother get sick and then another and then another. Then she learned that she was the one person who might be able to help save them.
It started in 2008 when Will, then 2, developed a swollen lymph node in his neck. The diagnosis: Burkitt's lymphoma, a rare cancer of the lymphatic system.
Will started chemotherapy, but then John, who was 6, began having severe stomach problems.
"They diagnosed John with Burkitt's lymphoma two years to the exact day later," said (mother) Christy Jenkins.
Doctors at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta started looking for answers. Burkitt's doesn't usually run in families, but a specialist remembered hearing about a rare, genetic immune disorder called XLP carried by boys that could cause very similar symptoms. Blood tests showed both Will and John had XLP, as did 2-year-old Matthew.
"Here I was approached with the plate of, 'All three boys need a bone marrow transplant to possibly survive,'" said Christy Jenkins.
That's where Julia comes in.
"I remember getting my blood tested, like sticking a needle in my arm," Julia Jenkins said.
Julia was a perfect bone marrow donor match for both John and Matthew, but she was so young that she didn't even know what being a donor meant.
"But, I said yes, because they're my brothers," said Julia Jenkins.