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Standing up for Sadie: Bone marrow screening could save toddler's life

Mary Hinds • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 9:58 PM

As Christmas approaches, families everywhere are plotting and planning what presents to get their children. One Mt. Juliet family is plotting how to keep their daughter alive.

The Davis family got the horrible news Nov. 17 that their 17-month-old daughter, Sadie, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. AML is a cancer that starts inside bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells. The cancer grows from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells. Acute means the disease develops quickly.

Sadie is a beautiful baby with blonde hair and bluer-than-blue eyes and is obviously the apple of her parents' eye. Amber and Tim, along with her big brother, Eli, 3, are just trying to deal with the day-to-day reality of this unexpected crisis.

"It came out of the blue," Tim said. "I thought she had the stomach virus that was going around. She got sick on the night of the election."

He said Sadie exhibited unusual behavior and, with her being so young, she couldn't tell them how she was feeling. The worried parents rushed her to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and were told she might have meningitis.

"I thought, 'Thank God she doesn't have leukemia,'" Tim recalled. "Then she started having weakness in her left side."

A return to Vanderbilt for more tests resulted in the AML diagnosis. As one can easily imagine, the Davis family was devastated.

"It was quite a blow," Tim said. "As far as we knew she was a perfectly healthy little girl. It was a very scary diagnosis. We went from one Friday thanking God it wasn't leukemia, to the next Friday when she had already completed her first round of chemo."

Now the family is struggling to make sure Sadie always has one parent with her at Vanderbilt as Eli continues to have as normal a life as possible.

"We're trying to keep him in his normal pattern," Tim said. "He knows something is going on."

Amber stays with Sadie all day while doctors and nurses perform the never-ending tests, while Tim works all day and stays with her at night. Amber's mom has virtually closed her antique store in Kentucky to keep the household running and stay with Eli, who is too young to know anything except something is going on that requires mom and dad to be away.

While the family is reeling from the diagnosis, their family, church family and friends are rallying behind the couple with prayers and support, but there is more they and the community can do to help, and perhaps save Sadie's life.

Everyone with a heart is invited Saturday from 3-7 p.m., to the Journey Church at 212 Leeville Pike in Lebanon to join the "Be The Match Registry" to see if a bone marrow match can be found for Sadie. To join in the drive, participants must be between the ages of 18 and 44. Potential donors must be willing to donate to any patient in need and meet the health guidelines.

Forget the horror stories about marrow donation. Alta Peden of Be The Match said it's very easy to be screened, and even if you are a match, relatively easy to donate.

"They just come in and fill out some paperwork and then we have four swabs to be taken in the mouth. That's how we match them to a patient," Peden said.

If your samples match a patient in need, you will be contacted and asked to donate. Peden said donations can be taken in two ways. The first requires the donor to be sedated and have marrow taken from their hip. The result is a bit of soreness. Peden said patients liken it to having strained their back. The second method only requires the donor to give blood for five consecutive days, from which valuable stem cells are removed to be used to treat the patient.

"The discomfort is minor, especially considering you are actually saving a life," she said.

Peden suggests anyone with questions visit bethematch.org or call her at 423-752-5951 to find out more details about the procedures.

With family and friends conducting prayer vigils at the Journey Church, at the hospital and everywhere in between, the Davis family is hoping for a small miracle of modern medicine to save their baby. But that miracle cannot happen if a marrow match is not found. They are praying their friends and neighbors in Wilson County will step up to be tested. Sadie had emergency surgery this week, so there may be no time to waste.

"She is one tough little girl," Tim said.

Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or maryhinds@lebanondemocrat.com.

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