DOVER, Del. — The hardest decision most 8-year-olds have to make on any given day is how to spend recess.
A few years ago Jenna Dumanski faced the choice of whether or not she’d be the one to donate a life-saving bone marrow transplant to her 8-month-old brother, Tommy, who had been diagnosed with a rare hereditary immunodeficiency disease.
Jenna knew what she had to do, and didn’t look back.
“Tommy had CGD (chronic granulomatous disease) and he needed a donor because he was really sick,” she told NASCAR.com Sunday at Dover International Speedway, site of the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. “We got tested and I was a 10 out of 10 match for him so I donated it. (I knew) if I didn’t, he would be really sick and he could possibly die.”
Medlineplus.gov defines CGD as an “inherited disorder in which certain immune system cells do not function properly. This leads to repeated and severe infection.”
The source also says long-term antibiotic treatments may help reduce the infections, but early death can occur from repeated lung infections.
The Dumanskis needed to move swiftly, and decisively in Tommy’s case.
“(The doctors) wanted us to wait a year so his body could go through the chemo(therapy),” Jenna’s mom, Jeannette, explained, “but his mutation was so severe that they said his next infection probably was going to be fatal.
“We gave (Jenna) the option. … We said, ‘You choose. We’re not going to make you do this.’ There’s people in the donor pool who also could’ve (been a match). Two days after that, she came to us and said she wants to be the one to save him.”
Fast forward to 2017, and both Jenna and Tommy are healthy and thriving thanks to Jenna’s selfless act of courage, though the former just went through a bout of meningitis, herself, that unfortunately got in the way of a Daytona 500 trip.
“Right now, knock on wood, but Tommy’s good,” said Jeannette. “He’s an active, 3-year-old boy, thanks to his superhero.”
Jenna’s looking forward to showing Tommy her passion — NASCAR — someday. It’s a relatively new one for her, but one she’s grown obsessed with immediately.
“I watched a race at my friend’s house and he had the Daytona 500 on and after I left I went home and asked my dad if we could watch it,” said Jenna. “I didn’t even realize there was going to be another race because I didn’t know too much about it. I’ve watched every single race since.
“I was leaning towards (Kevin) Harvick to be my favorite driver and then at Phoenix (Raceway) he did really well. He was good and I just really liked him. Now, I’m obsessed with NASCAR. I have NASCAR bed sheets, I have a NASCAR wall, just tons and tons of NASCAR stuff.”
Jenna — who in due time will learn the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is just about always good at Phoenix — and Harvick managed to meet at Dover in 2016, and the Milltown, New Jersey, resident was so excited she “couldn’t even talk.”
The family has been going to races at Dover and Pocono Raceway for a few years now and Jenna — who hopes to be a NASCAR driver herself one day — has made plans for a trip to another race track via one interesting math project.
“She just did this massive report for her math class,” Jeannette said, “Where they could go anywhere in the world, but you had to write out all of your expenses. She could’ve picked Bora Bora or Bermuda, but she wanted to go to Charlotte.”
Specifically, to the Coca-Cola 600.
(Spoiler alert: Austin Dillon wins the math project running of the race, too.)
“I wanted to go to Concord, North Carolina,” said Jenna. “We had to come up with different excursions and how to pay for your trip, so the first day I had us going to the NASCAR race at Charlotte, the second day we would go to the Stewart-Haas Racing headquarters because I really want to go there. Then we went to Hendrick Motorsports, because my dad really likes them and I kind of like that team. The fourth day we went to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the fifth day we went to Lake Norman just to hang out.
“One of my favorite things in the whole world is NASCAR. Being on a NASCAR trip would be amazing.”
Someday Jenna will make it down to Charlotte.
And she’ll have Tommy right alongside her.