Ryleigh Williams: Some Gifts Can’t Be Measured

Some gifts are priceless. Ask Ryleigh Williams, 11, from Griffin, Georgia. Her younger brother, Alex, gave her the gift of life with a bone marrow transplant in August. The transplant was critical in Ryleigh’s treatment of B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, B-ALL, for short which she was diagnosed with in October 2015.

“They tested me, Alex, and her dad, and Alex was a match,” says Staci Williams, Ryleigh’s mom. “I can’t even put it into words how thankful I am. If it wasn’t for Alex, she might not be here right now.

“Ryleigh is so grateful that she has such an amazing brother who would be willing to go through a painful procedure to save her life,” Staci says. “She loves him very much.”

“Knock on wood,” Staci says in adding that Ryleigh is doing pretty well after the bone marrow transplant on August 20. “Right now, we are just waiting to see if Alex’s bone marrow will work.”

The Williams Family, Ryleigh, from left, Staci, and her brothers

Life has been a roller coaster for Ryleigh and her family. After her diagnosis in 2015, she rang the bell when she finished her treatment in December 2017. “She relapsed in May 2018,” says Staci. “I can’t count the rounds of chemo she has had.”

Thankfully, the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House allows the family to be together during Ryleigh’s treatments.

“It’s not stressful here,” Staci says. “The House has made it a lot easier, and everyone is nice here. I like it because the boys can come up here on their school breaks, and because we have a little home away from home.”

Ryleigh did a clinical trial, Blinatumomab, which didn’t work. In January 2019, Ryleigh started Kymriah (CAR-T Cell Therapy), which worked until Ryleigh relapsed again in April.

“We did another round of Kymriah, which didn’t work, and then a clinical trial called Inotuzumab ozogamicin, which put her in remission once more,” Staci says. “To prepare for a bone marrow transplant from her younger brother, Alex, Ryleigh had six rounds of radiation and three days of strong chemotherapy then a rest day before the transplant procedure.”

“My treatments have taught me to be brave and patient,” Ryleigh says. “And to be thankful for life.”

Her mom adds they are beyond grateful for the House, adding her younger boys love the playroom when they come visit.

“Ryleigh loves the Ronald McDonald House for so many reasons,” Staci says. “We have met lifelong friends here. Everyone who works here makes her feel beyond special. She loves that she can spend quality time with her family here, and it’s more like a home than the hospital setting. We are so thankful for everyone that makes our stay here possible. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”