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Christ the King HS helps ailing Maspeth teenager

When her daughter Carly Nieves suffered a relapse at age 12 of the cancer she had been diagnosed with when she was 7, Lisa Horner promised her daughter they would make a positive out of the suffering Carly was going through.

On Saturday at Christ the King Regional High School, at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village, Carly and her family did just that. Coordinating efforts with Christ the King President Michael Michel, the student body and the Friends of Karen charity, Carly’s family held a blood and bone marrow drive at the school. At the end of the day, Horner said the school collected 200 pints of blood and had 54 individuals register as bone marrow donors.

“I feel great,” Carly said. “I feel very happy, grateful for all these people.”

Carly, who is now 14, is a Maspeth resident. She is currently home schooled but formerly attended IS 73 at 70-02 54th Ave. and hopes to go to Christ the King. At 7 years old, Carly was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a disease in which the body creates marrow cells that form lymphocytes — immune system cells which fight infection — but develops them immaturely, not allowing the body to produce healthy blood cells. She relapsed when she was 12, and Horner said doctors are treating her with high-dose chemotherapy. If she relapses again, they will try a bone marrow transplant.

Both treatments require the types of donors Carly and Horner tried to find at the drive. Carly requires blood transfusions to recover from the chemotherapy, and sometimes the supply runs low. Horner said this time of year was the lowest for blood donations. Bone marrow donors are also in short supply, especially in the Asian, Hispanic and African-American populations, Horner said. She said since Carly is half Puerto Rican and half Italian, getting these types of donors to register and help Carly and children like her was important.

In addition to the drives, the family also planned a bake sale to help fund the bone marrow procedure, but Long Island Gift of Life ended up paying for the costs. The students of Christ the King held a bake sale and donated the proceeds to Friends of Karen, which supports families emotionally and financially when one of the children become life-threateningly ill.

“They helped my family since 2003 when Carly was diagnosed,” Horner said.

Michel said the school was approached because Carly’s younger sister goes to their day-care center. About 125 students assisted in the blood drive in some way. Michel said the school plans to hold a similar blood and bone marrow drive annually.

“I think it’s educational for the students, because the sooner they start giving blood the more natural it becomes for them to do it,” Michel said.

Senior Valerie Santiago, a 17-year-old Ozone Park resident, said she was proud to give blood for the first time for Carly, even though she was scared of needles.

“Overcome your fear to save three people’s lives. I just think it’s worth it,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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