Hunter Haymore, 14, speaks to the media during a press...

Hunter Haymore, 14, speaks to the media during a press conference at Cohen Children's Medical Center in which it was announced that Hunter was cured of Sickle Cell Anemia through a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. (Feb. 10, 2011) Credit: Charles Eckert

Hunter Haymore can dance again.

The Rosedale, Queens, 14-year-old underwent a successful bone marrow operation about five weeks ago that doctors hope will cure her of sickle cell anemia. She has since been taking strides toward a life free of pain and full of opportunities.

Hunter is the first patient at Cohen's Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park to receive a bone-marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. Typically donors are siblings - Hunter doesn't have a brother or sister.

"I used to plan my life around my illness," said Hunter, who has dealt with the disease since birth. "I walk around the house saying, 'I'm so happy now!' "

Joined at a news conference Thursday by her parents, Donna Haymore and Eric Berry, and her doctor, Hunter, a student at Lowell School in Bayside, said she is looking forward to getting back to dance class and to her school activities, including being class president.

"We have been dealing with this for 14 years," her mother said. "Finding a donor was the biggest roller coaster. I can't stress enough how important it is for minorities to become bone marrow donors. It could change a life."

Up to 100,000 people - most of them African Americans - have sickle cell anemia, a disease in which the body's red blood cells become crescent-shaped and block the blood flow in the vital organs, such as the brain and lungs.

When the cells block oxygen, it creates immense pain. Other debilitating effects include headaches, fevers, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and strokes.

Hunter had two strokes at the ages of 6 and 7, her mother said.

Dr. Joel Brochstein, Hunter's doctor, stressed the importance of raising awareness for how bone marrow transplants in sickle cell anemia patients can prove to be beneficial.

Brochstein noted that Hunter, who had the transplant Jan. 5 and returned home Jan. 21, will require extensive follow up, and only about eight months after the procedure will the doctor be able to be sure she is entirely cured. For now, he is confident of the outcome.

"We are a proud staff," he said of the medical center, run by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. "Not all transplants work out well, so this is a wonderful thing."

Berry, overjoyed with his daughter's recovery, said he is looking forward to a calmer life.

"It's surreal," he said. "Every time we made plans, we had to base it on her condition. It's like the skies have opened up."

Because the family cannot meet the donor until a year after the surgery, both mother and daughter extended their thanks to the mystery individual.

"Even though I don't know you, I want to say thank you," Hunter said. "I appreciate it."

In the meantime, Hunter is wasting no time planning her future.

"I now want to be a pediatric hematology nurse," she said.

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