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American Woman Seeks Chinese Birth Mother to Save Child's Life

An American mother is making a desperate plea to people across China to help her dying adopted daughter find a bone marrow transplant. The six-year-old's best chance of survival may be to find the Chinese mother who gave her up for adoption.

Six-year old Kailee Wells is bright and pretty with a beautiful smile and a fiery personality.

Her adoptive mother from the United States, Linda Wells, says Kailee is also terribly ill with aplastic anemia, which threatens to kill her unless she receives a bone marrow transplant. "She is not getting any better," said Mrs. Wells. "She is very vulnerable to more bleeding, and to a fatal infection at any time. One doctor described her as a walking time bomb."

Kailee's disease destroys bone marrow, the tissue that produces blood cells. Bone marrow can be harmlessly collected from one person and injected into another, but the transplant isn't effective unless the two people are a very close genetic match.

U.S. doctors searched the computer records of millions of potential donors, but none matched Kailee.

The odds of successful transplants are vastly better between close relatives. That's why Linda Wells came to China to speak with the Chinese media Tuesday, pleading for Kailee's mother to contact the Chinese Red Cross to be tested as a possible life-saving marrow donor. "You gave our daughter life. My family has loved and nurtured her since," said Mrs. Wells. "I cannot save her alone. Please help me. Together, we have hope to save our daughter."

Mrs. Wells says Kailee, whose original Chinese name was Changban, was left on the doorstep of the Teachers Training Institute in Changde, a city in Hunan Province, when she was 10 days old. That was in January 1997, and her mother has not been heard from since. Mrs. Wells admits the odds of finding Kailee's mother or other close relatives are "slim," but she says she must try.

It is possible that an unrelated Chinese person would also be a close enough genetic match for the transplant to work. China's Red Cross is asking people to take blood tests to see if they might be able to provide a life-saving donation. Whether they match Kailee or not, their information will be kept in a computer database for possible use with other people who need transplants.

The Red Cross has set up a 24-hour telephone hotline and a web site to help get the word out. Officials say in just two days, hundreds of people have called inquiring about becoming bone marrow donors. While that is encouraging, experts say it may take many thousands of potential donors to find that one successful transplant.