Nora Getchell, 7, of Mastic Beach, undergoes treatment for aplastic...

Nora Getchell, 7, of Mastic Beach, undergoes treatment for aplastic anemia in 2012. Credit: Handout

Sitting on Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning’s desk is a handmade drawing by 7-year-old Nora Getchell, of Mastic Beach, given to her as a gift almost a year ago. The drawing is a reminder of  Nora’s strength and optimism, even in times of darkness.

“Nora’s just a funny, happy-go-lucky girl; she always has a smile on her face,” Browning said. “What this child has gone through, it never seems to faze her.”

Nora has a severe aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder that affects bone marrow health. In May 2012, Nora received a bone-marrow transplant in hopes of curing her illness. According to Maureen Getchell, her mother, Nora’s natural cells began to reject the new marrow a year later, leaving her in need of another surgery.

In 2012, Browning worked with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to add aplastic anemia to the list of conditions that the state-sponsored Child Health Plus, Nora’s insurer, would approve for out-of-network treatment after the family’s claim had initially been denied. The change allowed Nora to continue being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. The Mastic Beach Property Owners Association, along with other members of the Mastic Beach community also contributed, raising $40,000 in funds for the family.

“They’re not a family who has asked for a lot and financially, this has taken a real toll on them,” Browning said. “I don’t think it’s something you really realize until it hits you.”

On Tuesday, the James V. Kavanaugh Knights of Columbus in Mastic Beach, in cooperation with the property owners association and the New York Blood Center, held a blood drive in honor of Nora and her family.

“I give blood regularly, but I’m out here today for her,” Mastic Beach resident and blood donor Kathy Speers, 56, said. “We all gotta help each other, what else do you got?”

Along with the blood drive, items donated by local businesses were raffled off, and the Kavanaugh Knights of Columbus gave a $400 donation to the property owners'  Nora Fund, a charity fund set up in the girl's honor last year.

“This whole community has been involved with her story,” Kristin Beedenbender-Hernandez, of the New York Blood Center, said. “You can’t help but want to help her.”

Getchell said her daughter went through another surgery last week in which she received stem-cell enriched blood to help stimulate healthy growth. She said the stem cells were donated by the same man who matched with Nora a year before -- an international donor whose name remains anonymous, even to her.

“All I know is that he’s a man, and what his blood type is,” Getchell said. “And that he’s really very generous.”

Nora is currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park. According to her mom, full recovery could take up to a year.

“My hope is to see her fully recovered by next July,”  Gretchell said.


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