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Sunday, June 6, 2004



Adopted isle infant dies
after battling disease


Ryan Ma died Friday of a rare disease at 17 months of age, surrounded by family and friends at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.


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STAR-BULLETIN FILE
Ryan Ma: A series of bone marrow donor drives failed to produce a match for the 17-month-old


"She's really a blessed child that she was loved by so many people, as opposed to being in an orphanage," said Audrey Suga-Nakagawa, a family friend.

The Chinese infant was the adopted daughter of Dickson and Lise Ditzel-Ma.

Suga-Nakagawa and her husband traveled with the Mas and two other couples to bring back daughters from China in November.

Ryan became ill a few weeks later and was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lympohistiocytosis, a disease in which white blood cells increase and attack organs and tissue.

Ditzel-Ma said in a Star-Bulletin interview in April that Ryan was only the 114th person in the world to be treated for the disorder with modern medical procedures.

The family had hoped to find a donor match for a bone marrow transplant that might have saved Ryan's life. Hundreds of people turned out at a series of donor drives coordinated by the Friends of Ryan Ma with the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

Although her condition had weakened in recent weeks and a match wasn't found, "I don't think we ever gave up hope," said Resi Ditzel Suehiro of Manoa, Ryan's aunt.

Thursday night they put Ryan in a "really cute little dress they purchased in China" and she fell asleep in it, Ditzel Suehiro said.

"She was so adorable and, with all that she went through, she was very bright."

"It's just heartbreaking," said Suga-Nakagawa, noting the infant had suffered a lot of side effects from chemotherapy.

"She was a tough little girl; she endured it very well, much more than an adult would. Children are very resilient. She exceptionally was very courageous."

The past few months have been very difficult for Ryan's parents, Suga-Nakagawa said.

"In some ways, they're comforted to know she's at peace now and no longer suffering."

Suga-Nakagawa said the Friends of Ryan Ma will host two more donor drives this month in the child's memory.

One will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 19 at Mililani Town Center, and the other from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 27 at Kaimuki Christian Church, 1117 Koko Head Ave.

Although it's too late for Ryan, 3,000 others waiting for donor matches might be helped by the hundreds who volunteered for her, Ditzel Suehiro said.

Surviving Ryan besides her parents is her brother, 5-year-old Jaryd.

Funeral services are pending.

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