Little Gracelyn "Gracey" Green crept into the hearts of South Africans all over when a nationwide drive was under way to get her a stem cell transplant.
However, the two-year-old from Atlantis sadly lost her battle and died at the weekend, as her family confirmed to IOL.
"I was sitting with her in my arms when she passed at 7.54am," said Gracey’s aunt, Lizel Solomons.
Gracey was at hospital at the time of her death on Saturday, September 9.
Little Gracey was diagnosed in August 2021 with juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML), a rare cancer of the blood that affects young children, and her only chance of survival was a stem cell transplant.
At the time, the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) said the chances of finding a match were 1 in 100,000, and the odds were even greater for Gracey (around 1 in 400,000) due to the lack of donors of colour on the registry, as patients are more likely to find a match within their own ethnic grouping.
It said the lack of donors of colour was not unique to South Africa, and globally, there is a mere 27% chance of people of colour finding a match.
People of European descent have a 70% chance of finding a donor.
However, South Africans from all over joined the donor drives and got tested.
Gracey’s family as well as her church congregation held continuous drives in order to find a match for her; this saw her entire community unite to give the young girl a fighting chance.
As everyone tried to be strong for Gracey and her family, they also knew the family had had to endure more tragedy than most.
On June 4, 2021, Gracey’s mother, Shanique Green, 20, and three other relatives perished when their family home was gutted by a fire.
The brave young mom managed to hand Gracey to someone through the window as she went back into the home to try to save a relative.
Gracey was only five months old at the time.
After months of searching for a bone marrow donor, in July 2022, it was confirmed Gracey found a match.
At the time, Jane Ward, deputy director for the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR), told IOL the donor was found in the US.
"The South African Bone Marrow Registry can confirm that a donor cord blood unit has been found in the US for Gracey, funded through our Patient Assistance Programme (PAP).
"The PAP was established by the SABMR in 2018 to financially assist families who cannot afford donor-related costs," Ward said.
While the transplant was conducted and her family shared in the joy of extending Gracey’s life, all did not go as planned.
"She developed fungal infections in her heart and lungs, which spread to her bone marrow, and this made it difficult for the transplanted cells to grow, so her transplant could not be successful," Solomons told IOL.
Little Gracey, who has continuously defied the odds and persevered through all the pain, would have celebrated her third birthday on December 10.
Tributes have poured in from all over for little Gracey.
The SABMR also conveyed their condolences on their social media platforms, celebrating Gracey.
Their post read:
"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of little Gracelyn "Gracey" Green. Gracey fought valiantly but sadly lost her battle with cancer on Saturday morning.
“Gracey’s unwavering strength in the face of adversity left an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of knowing her. She fought with a bravery that transcended her years, and in the midst of it all, she still demonstrated her ability to find joy in the simplest moments.
“On behalf of the SABMR, we’d like to convey our heartfelt condolences to Gracey’s family. Her legacy is one of resilience, love, and an unwavering spirit that will continue to inspire us all”.
Rest sweetly, little Gracey.