How Hoxworth Donors Became Heroes in Heather’s Battle against Leukemia
A Tale of Courage, Support, and the Extraordinary Generosity of Strangers
The journey Heather Bane embarked upon in the fight against leukemia is one filled with unexpected twists, moments of despair, and, most importantly, the unwavering support of Hoxworth blood donors who emerged as her guardian angels. From the depths of uncertainty to the triumph of remission, their selfless contributions not only sustained her physically but also rekindled her spirit and gave her hope when it seemed elusive.
It all began in early January when a wave of exhaustion swept over Heather, leaving her feeling drained and unusually prone to bruising and bleeding. Concerned, she visited her family doctor on Saturday, January 7th, under the impression that her symptoms may have been due to low iron levels. Little did she know that this visit would set in motion a life-altering journey.
Following blood tests, her doctor's phone call on Monday revealed the unimaginable - a diagnosis of leukemia. In disbelief, she hesitated to go to the ER, but her doctor urged her to seek immediate medical attention. He promptly referred her to Kettering Oncology, stressing the urgency of her situation.
Aggressive Acute Myeloid Leukemia
The following morning, with trepidation, Heather made the call. The oncology team assured her they were working on her referral and would contact her shortly. True to their word, they swiftly arranged an appointment for that Friday. However, their assessment changed abruptly as they determined she needed immediate attention. On January 10th, Heather found herself in the hospital, overwhelmed by the gravity of her diagnosis. Aggressive acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with the MML mutation had taken hold of her body.
Multiple rounds of chemotherapy followed, each more intense than the last. The treatments took their toll, resulting in the loss of Heather's hair and a growing reliance on blood and platelet transfusions. Her prognosis seemed bleak, with little hope for survival or achieving remission. Her life shifted dramatically, as she went from a few days back at work after a vacation to being off the entire year, uncertain if she would ever return. The possibility of a December 25th return date seemed like a distant dream.
Remission & Chemotherapy
After five grueling weeks in the hospital, Heather's numbers began to show signs of improvement. Miraculously, her bone marrow biopsies revealed a diminishing presence of leukemia blasts. Remission, against the odds, became her reality. However, the road to recovery still lay ahead, with numerous doctor appointments and another week-long stay for additional chemotherapy.
Bone Marrow Donor Match
Meanwhile, efforts were underway to find a bone marrow donor match. Two potential 100% matches from Brazil had emerged, but complications prevented their suitability for transplantation. Heather's sister, initially deemed an incompatible match, lived in North Carolina, facing numerous obstacles in collecting her sample.
As donor options dwindled, a breakthrough occurred. Heather's sister persevered, and her bone marrow compatibility was confirmed with a resounding 100% match. Determined to ensure her participation, Heather rallied support through a GoFundMe campaign and personal funds, alongside a grant, to cover her sister's travel expenses and missed work. The unwavering commitment of Heather's medical and bone marrow teams, along with her sister's newfound resolve, prevailed. Her sister recognized the exceptional care and support Heather's doctors provided, even taking the time to update and educate her throughout the process, despite juggling her own challenges as a new mother.
With the transplant procedure successfully completed, Heather faced the subsequent round of chemotherapy. Though a severe case of mucositis caused her to be unable to eat for a week and lose weight, her numbers again recovered quickly. She was initially supposed to spend five weeks in the hospital, but her progress was so remarkable that she was released after three weeks. The only thing remaining was a magnesium infusion, which was part of the ongoing recovery process. Heather's last bone marrow biopsy showed no leukemia blasts, indicating a deep remission. Her doctor acknowledged that the chances of her going into remission had been less than 10%.
Heather Follows Her Doctor’s Advice & Remained Sickness-Free
Heather's determination to follow her doctor's advice, walking even on her bad days, consuming the necessary extra calories, taking all her medications and undergoing chemotherapy, contributed to her progress. Despite another week-long hospital stay due to vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss, which was eventually determined to be caused by a medication, Heather's energy began to return, she remained sickness-free, and her appetite came back. She started walking more, and her sister's cells showed 98% compatibility in the latest test, a testament to their remarkable progress.
Heather’s Life Save By Doctors, Nurses, and Blood Donor Heroes
Heather acknowledges the incredible dedication and care provided by Dr. Hambley and her medical team. The nurses at both UC and Hoxworth Blood Center have become cherished friends who genuinely care for her well-being. She remains eternally grateful to all the Hoxworth donors who have given blood and platelets, recognizing them as life-savers. Being sent to UC instead of Columbus has proved to be a blessing, as she believes she is in the best hands possible. Heather’s life has been saved by the collective efforts of countless individuals ni the greater Cincinnati area who embody the spirit of compassion and generosity, serving as a shining example of the profound impact a community can have on an individual's fight against adversity.