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Linda & Richard Eyre: Lessons from an 8-year-old bone marrow transplant patient

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13 2013 3:49 p.m. MST

Courageous Cami with boxing gloves.

Provided by Richard Eyre

We have a little grandniece named Cami Carver, who is undergoing a desperately difficult experience from which all families and parents can learn many lessons.

When she was 4, Cami contracted leukemia and underwent a long chemo and radiation regimen resulting in remission. Her whole family — her parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins — rallied around her and made her their first priority and first in their prayers. Through the whole long, difficult process, they taught us much about loyalty and compassion and faith, and little Cami taught us all a lot about resilience and courage. She inspired a lot of people and made us all count our blessings.

But the ordeal — and the inspiration — was just starting. After being declared cancer-free and given a 90 percent chance of being completely cured, the sky came crashing down as the disease reappeared. While the rest of us were depressed and deflated, little Cami said, “I beat it once, and I can beat it again.”

But the second time is even harder. The strategy for a second, more durable remission involves not only heavier chemo and radiation as well as steroids, but an expensive and difficult bone marrow transplant where the approach is to essentially bring a patient as close to death as possible via the intensity of the chemo poison and radiation, and then to inject a donor's bone marrow to seep in and come to the rescue as it takes over for the patient’s own “killed” marrow.

Once again, family and friends have stepped up, as has the community and the media. Donations have flowed in. More than a thousand people signed up for the bone marrow registry. Cami and her family got an expenses-paid trip to Disneyland, and everyone who knew her or knew of her seemed to find some small way to help.

Finding a “perfect match” in a bone marrow donor is a one-in-a-million proposition, but there is a bone marrow donor registry (bethematch.org) with several million people registered, and among them was one perfect match for Cami. All doctors would tell us is that he was a young man and would have to agree to go through the difficult and at least somewhat dangerous bone marrow extraction process. If he did, Cami’s chances would improve dramatically.

He did.

The policy is to keep donors anonymous for a year, but in a way we already know his identity: He is an angel.

Cami was prepped (weakened almost to the point of death), and on exactly the right day last week, the bone marrow was extracted from the donor and air expressed to Primary Children’s Hospital. For four hours, the precious marrow dripped into Cami’s system through an IV tube.

We’re in the waiting period now, waiting to see if her system accepts the new marrow and if it restores her health and her immunity and gives her a new resistance to her once-again-in-remission cancer. With the combination of Cami’s spirited resilience, the whole family’s care and prayer, and the donor’s gift, we are all optimistic.

And there are obvious lessons and metaphors — all so relevant to families:

  1. The giving of self to save others.
  2. The resilience of the human spirit, particularly of children’s spirits.
  3. The amazing unity of family and concern of community that come in crisis.
  4. The need for all of us to “be the marrow,” the metaphor of the donated marrow illustrating how darkness and disease and wrong can be gradually replaced and overcome by the goodness and light that can seep into our systems when people care and give.
To read more about this experience and about Cami (with pictures and media clips), take a look at Linda’s Deseret News blog.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com.

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