Wesley has been an advocate for blood and bone marrow donations since he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in January, 2006, at the age of 12. After several months of chemotherapy, he received a bone marrow transplant from his sister Lauren, making him the second pediatric bone marrow transplant patient at Florida Hospital. After treatment, he was actively involved in extracurricular activities such as AFJROTC and graduated from Timber Creek High School in 2012. He received a scholarship to Harvard University, where he studies Government and Psychology, participates in Relay for Life, and supervises fundraising for financial aid and student life for undergraduates.
In June 2011, seven-year-old Jasmin received Central Florida’s first bone marrow transplant at the Kids Beating Cancer Pediatric Transplant Center at Florida Hospital for Children, to cure sickle cell disease. Her disease prohibited her from enjoying a normal childhood, because “people who have sickle cell disease often face a wide range of health issues, from shorter life expectancies to constant hospitalizations from infection and intense pain,” according to her transplant physician. Today, Jasmin is healthy and expected to live a normal life. Her mother, Mariah Baker, feels blessed that now Jasmin “can be the little girl she was always meant to be.”
Tatum was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of two at Nemours. She received intravenous and oral chemotherapy over the course of two years, and completed her treatment June 2010. At Kids Beating Cancer’s Christmas party she was a holiday princess, twirling and curtsying with Disney’s Cinderella. Mom says, “Tatum enjoys going to the Clinic because she is a social butterfly, but hates all the procedures and ‘yucky’ medicines. She has been a fighter from the beginning, and if anyone asks her what she is doing to cancer, she will reply ‘kickin’ butt and takin’ names!’” Her angelic beauty, smile, and bubbling personality remain a joy and strength to everyone around her.
Lauren was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a rare form on Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, when she was 11 months old. After 9 months of chemotherapy, a marrow transplant was considered the best course of treatment for her disease. Like 70% of the patients, Lauren was unable to find a matching family donor. Instead, her match came from the donated blood stem cells from the umbilical cord of a baby she will never meet. With no pediatric transplant center in Central Florida at the time, Lauren and her family traveled to Seattle to receive her life saving treatment. Lauren was such a trooper. During her treatment, she never complained and was always happy! She is quite an inspiration to everyone she meets. Today, she is on no medications and has no residual side effects from the transplant. Lauren has started elementary school and is having fun. She loves animals, especially horses, and loves dancing and singing about God. But what she especially treasures is swimming and playing with her little sister, Candace Grace. They are best friends! Mom says, “Mostly we love being together as a family, laughing, smiling, and thanking God for every day!”
Theo is a loving and intelligent 15-year old boy was diagnosed with Myleodysplastic Syndrome (MDS). MDS is a rare blood disease that requires a bone marrow transplant to treat and hopefully cure this disease. If left untreated, the disease can progress to become Acute Myeloid Leukemia and seriously hinder his chances of survival. Theo has been out of school since November 2011, which is something he greatly misses. With his diagnosis a bone marrow transplant was his only hope for a cure. Theo received his transplant August 9, 2012. He did not have a donor in the family, only 25% of patients find a perfect match from a sibling, however, he did find a perfect match from a volunteer registered with the Be The Match Registry. Theo is the 13th child to be transplanted at the Kids Beating Cancer Pediatric Transplant Center and the 2nd patient to receive transplant from an unrelated donor.
The full recovery process will take the better part of a year or more and will force him to miss his first year of high school. He was discharged from the hospital in May 2013, after 263 days. Presently he returns 3 times a week for continued treatment. While the odds have seemed stacked against him, Theo has remained in good spirits and is determined to fight and beat his disease and get back to living the life of a normal teenage boy.
Matthew (Matty) was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) in 2008. He needed a bone marrow transplant, but did not have a matching donor in the family. Kids Beating Cancer facilitated marrow donor recruitment drives throughout the State of Florida in hopes of finding Matty a matching unrelated donor. Although our efforts did not find Matty his matching donor, one was identified, a lady in a small town in Germany gave Matty the gift of life. He was transplanted at All Children’s Hospital. This year, Matthew celebrated 5 years post transplant! His family was able to contact his donor, Angelika and they exchanges letters often. Last year Matty moved to Tennessee, and his family is enjoying the simple country life. He was able to ride a horse for the first time, and enjoys shooting guns and riding the 4-wheeler with his great uncle. He will turn 15 this year, and looks forward to getting a compound bow! He accepted Jesus as his savior and was baptized in April. He has come so far since 2008, and has never lost his beautiful smile!