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The valley's Miracle Girl
It’s no wonder Lourdess Sumners has sort of become the poster girl, — or as she says ‘miracle girl’ — for B.C Children’s Hospital and B.C. Women’s Hospital.
The 16-year-old Duncan Christian School student is as bubbly as can be, not afraid of speaking to crowds, and she knows exactly how to put into words what modern medicine has done to save her life.
“It’s really amazing when you think something so small can make such a huge difference,” said Sumners, who’s now six years in remission after being diagnosed with leukemia at eight years old and receiving a stem call transplant.
She recently joined forced with B.C. Women’s Hospital as part of its national cord blood bank collection and registry.
Sumners and father Orlando recently spoke at an event in January announcing the hospital’s latest cord blood bank program.
For the first time in B.C., women giving birth can now donate blood from the umbilical cord to help people suffering from a range of disorders.
“When I was first diagnosed, it was more like ‘OK, I need help,’ but now it’s like ‘I can help,’ and ‘I can help make a difference,’” she said, in an interview one day after school.
Sumners was asked to be a spokesperson as her stem cell transplant came from a donated umbilical cord. Until now, umbilical cords were thrown away as medical waste.
B.C. Women’s Hospital is one of only four Canadian hospitals to offer the service now in partnership with the Canadian Blood Services. The Provincial Ministry of Health has pledged $48 million to go towards creating the bank.
Sumners isn’t shy one bit speaking to small and large groups about her experience.
“We love to help in any way we can,” Sumners said, also noting how outspoken her father is, something she’s definitely picked up from him.
“I was kind of like the guinea pig. They like to shove me in the spotlight,” she said.
How does it feel to be the ‘miracle girl’?
“It feels pretty amazing that I get to help out in this way. I never thought it would come to this.”
Sumners has always kept a happy disposition even through her entire journey battling cancer.
She still visits B.C. Children’s Hospital — where she lived isolated in a hospital room for quite some time because of a compromised immune system, and went through rounds of chemotherapy — every six months for a check up. Or, as she puts it, “because they like to keep me coming back because I’m just that cute.”
When Sumners isn’t doing interviews or speaking engagements, she’s taking part in school plays, including DCS’s latest production Under the Apple Tree.
Or she’s hitting up Starbucks or taking ‘selfies’ to send to friends she’s met over the years at the hospital or at summer camps.
“I just love selfies,” the Grade 10 student said.