Fairfield elementary principal goes public with illness fight to raise donor awareness

Fairfield West Elementary Principal Missy Mueller, pictured here with students, learned in June she had been stricken with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which is a rare group of disorders in which your body no longer makes enough healthy blood cells. She decided to go public and campaign for all those battling illnesses who need donors to survive. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
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Fairfield West Elementary Principal Missy Mueller, pictured here with students, learned in June she had been stricken with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which is a rare group of disorders in which your body no longer makes enough healthy blood cells. She decided to go public and campaign for all those battling illnesses who need donors to survive. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

Principal Missy Mueller needs new bone marrow, but more importantly she wants to use her serious illness as a rallying cry for all to consider being life-saving donors for others.

The veteran Fairfield West Elementary principal learned in June she had developed myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which is a rare group of disorders in which the body no longer makes enough healthy blood cells.

It’s a type of cancer and also known as a bone marrow failure disorder. There is no cure for MDS, but its advancement in those stricken can be arrested. Left untreated, however, and it can lead to leukemia.

Mueller, who started in Fairfield Schools as a science teacher in 2004 and in 2017 became principal of West Elementary, is seeking a bone marrow donor but has decided to go public with her health struggle in a way that draws more attention to the donor candidate process rather than herself.

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A suitable donor can be found with a simple swab of a candidates’ inner cheek. And the sharing of bone marrow no longer requires painful drilling into a donor’s hip bone but rather a relatively simple, four-hour blood transfusion to donate life-saving stem cells.

“That’s the misconception,” said Mueller. “People still think they (doctors) are going to drill into their bone marrow, like a biopsy, but they are not. Nowadays they can take it from your blood … they hook you up to an IV, take your stem cells out and put your blood back in.”

“It’s a go to the hospital and you’re done,” she said.

“My insurance even pays the donor for missing a workday and mileage if they have to drive here. It is no cost to be donor.”

Mueller said even though “my bone marrow doesn’t work,” she so far she feels all right and intends to continue to lead her school of 800-plus students for as long as she is able.

Fairfield Schools Superintendent Billy Smith isn’t surprised by Mueller’s decision to press on while going public to campaign for more bone marrow donors for others needing the procedure.

“Missy is truly one of a kind. When she and I talked about her diagnosis, her biggest concern wasn’t about herself. It was about the students and staff at West Elementary. Missy is a people person and cares deeply about others,” said Smith.

“Her motto says it all: ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,’ and she is a role model for all of us, and we will continue to have Missy and her family in our prayers.”

She said, “I want the focus to be on getting more donors.”

“Maybe they can help me, but they can also help someone else.”

Best candidates for donors are those ages 18 to 44. For information on being a bone marrow donor, go online to bethematch.org.