Joey, left, and his brother Mick, playing Ninja Turtles.
Joey, left, and his brother Mick, playing Ninja Turtles. (Submitted photo)

Just 2½ years old, Joey Duffy was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood and bone marrow disorder, in September.

To save his life, Joey needed a bone marrow transplant.

His parents, Tom and Maura Duffy, were not matches. Neither were his brothers, Tommy, 6, and Mick, 4.

While the Springettsbury Township family waited for a match to be found for Joey, they organized a Be the Match bone marrow drive. Be the Match is a national registry for bone marrow donations.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, the Duffy family received the call they had waited for -- a match had been found for Joey.

"We were getting ready to see family over the holiday weekend, and it was just a really happy moment," said Maura Duffy. "It was a perfect match."

The preparation: Joey had four rounds of outpatient chemotherapy and three days of inpatient chemotherapy.

He will go to Johns Hopkins Hospital Wednesday for more chemotherapy. The bone marrow transplant is set for March 28.

The family will stay at St. Casimir's, the outpatient housing Johns Hopkins provides for bone marrow recipients and their families.

Recovery can be anywhere from four to eight weeks, and Joey's mom will stay with him during the week while his dad will travel down for the weekends.

"He has been in the hospital literally his whole life, so this is nothing new," Maura Duffy said.

Joey was born premature and stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit, and had been working with a doctor at Johns Hopkins since he was 6 months old, she said.

"Joey is a trouper," she said. "He was a preemie and has been in the neonatal intensive care unit and he rolls with the punches. He does really, really well."

Support: Juggling family life and trips to the hospital is the biggest challenge, she said, particularly when it means missing things like their older son's birthday to be in the hospital.

"But we've got great friends

and great family and lots of people out there supporting us," Maura Duffy said. "Lots of people want to help, and it is amazing how good people can be."

The Duffys and their friends have organized a 5K run and walk in Joey's honor at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 20 at the new 5K course at John Rudy Park, 400 Mundis Race Road.

The fee to participate is $20, which includes a T-shirt for anyone who registers before Saturday. Anyone who registers after that will pay $20, but will not receive a shirt.

The cost to register the day of the race is $25, and all proceeds will go toward HelpHOPELive, an organization that distributes funds to families to help cover uninsured medical expenses.

Race packets can be picked up the night before the race from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. near the park at 5 Olde Hickory Road in Mount Wolf, or from 7 to 8 a.m. the day of the race at the park.

Anyone can visit www.helphopelive.com and type in a patient's name to donate toward covering a family's expenses.

For more information on the race, email kleinsc55@yahoo.com. To follow Joey's progress, visit www.teamjoey.net.