This is Walter Lembeck's story, as told by his mom Lisa...
Walter was a seventeen year old, active runner and soccer player who had just finished his junior year of high school. We received the phone call on Friday June 6, 2014 that we needed to rush him into the emergency room of Cardinal Glennon because his blood work was way off. Walking into the hospital, “fear of the unknown” is the best way to describe the feelings and emotions we were experiencing at that moment. After meeting with the ER staff, we were told that Walter would be spending the weekend at the hospital receiving red blood cell and platelet transfusions. And so began the journey to find a diagnosis for Walter.
He had a bone marrow extraction done in mid-June to rule out all rare genetic diseases, and his father, twin sisters and I all had genetic testing completed as well. His diagnosis came out to be Severe Aplastic Anemia, which is an auto immune disease. Walter’s diagnosis required numerous blood and platelet transfusions; he has had too many to count. Sometimes he would need them twice a week, and other times he would only need them once a month.
The first week of August 2014 we tried a chemical reboot of his bone marrow, which entailed 5 days of light chemotherapy in the hospital. However, we found out in February of 2015 that he would need a bone marrow transplant. After a discussion with his doctor and support system, it was decided that he would have his transplant procedure in June 2015 after he graduated from high school.
In March 2015 he had Neurosurgery for an unrelated issue, but this procedure was how the doctors found Walter’s blood work to be off in the beginning. During the surgery, he had a port placement and another bone marrow extraction. He was admitted to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital on June 18, 2015 to have a broviac line placed and then went up to bone marrow transplant unit. On June 26, 2015 at approximately 4:30 pm he was given the precious gift of a new bone marrow from his donor, who was a 38-year old man from Germany. It was only a 50-minute procedure, and then he was in the bone marrow unit for 24 days post transplant, where it seemed like his body was embracing his new bone marrow. He is now on an extensive medicine regiment, taking about 20 pills a day, and he has had a few transfusions since his transplant, but it’s been about 5-6 weeks now since his last transfusion, and all counts are continuing to improve! As of September 1, 2015 he will be 67 days post transplant, and his big +100 will be October 4, 2015.
Until my son was ill, I had never donated blood or given bone marrow much thought. This has been a life changing event for me. I am constantly encouraging people to donate, and I hosted my third blood drive on September 2, 2015. If you have ever thought about donating blood, please make sure you do it! It is 45 minutes of your time that could save a life or two. Also, please consider registering to become a bone marrow donor (or women, if you are pregnant, think of donating cord blood). There are many lives that can be saved with your donation!