"I look like Frankenstein, mommy," Laila Anderson told her mother, Heather, after getting 65 stitches in her head.
That's when Heather reached for her phone and called friend and Blues alum Kelly Chase.
"He came in and said, 'Look how many scars I have, and I don't have one as cool as that. [Alexander] Steen doesn't have any teeth, and look at him! And we're tough guys, so you're a part of that club; you're a tough guy now.' and it just changed her whole attitude and her whole outlook on things," Heather recalled.
A brain biopsy was just one of the countless procedures 10-year-old Laila underwent over a period of 14 months while doctors tried to diagnose her. It would later be confirmed that she had HLH, a disease so rare that it has only been identified in 15 other children in the world. In October, Laila started chemotherapy and, following that, will require a stem cell transplant. But first they need to find a bone marrow donor match.
On Nov. 19 when the Blues host the Los Angeles Kings, the team will also be allowing fans to sign up for the Be the Match registry. The organization will have a table in the concourse outside Portal 15 where fans can register to receive a swab kit mailed to them. Fans who are unable to make it to the game can also register online. The Anderson family and Be the Match hope to not only find a bone marrow donor for Laila during the registration drive, but for other kids who need one as well.
During her stints in the hospital, Laila received visits from Chase and Steen, along with support from Joe Buck. This is part of what has helped her through. Hockey has helped her through. "It just touches my heart. It makes me feel good," Laila said. "Even watching a Blues game (in the hospital) just changes everything. It makes me happy."
Last month Laila had tickets for the Blues' Halloween game on Oct. 27. You may remember her - she was the one wearing the taco costume by the Blues tunnel. That night she received a high-five (and big smile) from Steen and a stick from Colton Parayko. Two days later, she joined the team and other local kids from St. Louis Children's Hospital for trick-or-treating at Stifel Theatre.
It's been a long journey for the young fan, but Laila knows she has Chase, Steen, Parayko and the Blues organization in her corner during this fight.
"These boys are what keep her going; she is motivated by them," Heather said. "It just really touched her heart and she just says everyday, 'I'm going to keep fighting, mommy. I'm going to keep fighting for them.'"
Fans can join the Be the Match registry online at BeTheMatch.org. Tickets for the Nov. 19 game are available online via Ticketmaster. Learn more about the Blues' month-long Hockey Fights Cancer initiative by visiting stlouisblues.com/hfc.