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2007 Reunion Day

To those who attended the annual Blood and Marrow Transplant Reunion, June 30 was more than a sunny summer Saturday; it was a day of hope. Survivors of the transplant program, some as early as one year out from their transplants, their families and Children’s Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant physicians and staff gathered for a picnic at North Park to enjoy a day of caricatures, a Chinese auction and an infamous magic show.

“It was therapeutic and healing on many levels,” says Rakesh Goyal, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) at Children’s Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation. “Some of the staff only sees the patients when they are very sick so it’s an emotional relief. Families want to come because they are loyal to BMT program and because they are thankful. I’m just proud of all of them.”

Picnic organizers met the challenges of their patient’s food restrictions with careful menu planning. “It’s amusing. I’m worried about the leukemia coming back, and the kids are worried about negotiating; ‘Can I eat at Wendy’s? Can I eat at Pizza Hut?’” Dr. Goyal says. “The whole process of recovery is long and drawn out. It’s nice to progressively get away from that.”

The picnic offered an opportunity to relax, but also gave patients and their families hope and encouragement by seeing the success of the program’s survivors. Stephanie Eckert, now 21 and 20 years out, attended the picnic with her family. Stephanie was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) at 13 months old, and has been living a healthy lifestyle since her remission in 1988. Though no formal bone marrow program existed at Children’s at that time, the Eckerts opted to have the bone marrow harvested and transplanted in Pittsburgh. They remain connected with the BMT program and the support services offered at Children’s.

“People were so excited to see her,” says Stephanie’s mom, Michelle. “When she was diagnosed, I looked for people who had survived. That’s what parents do — look for survivors. You need to have that hope.”

Last Update
September 17, 2012
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Last Update
September 17, 2012