Tuesday, September 18, 2012
By Misty Volaski
Friday at 11:30 a.m., Jake Larkin finally got what he and his family had been praying for: a life-saving bone marrow transplant.
The 6-year-old grandson of Oaks at Ojai owners Don and Sheila Cluff has been battling severe aplastic anemia since February, when his bone marrow stopped producing red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. He’s been in Milwaukee for months, getting daily blood transfusions to keep him alive while his family and the National Marrow Donor Program searched for a bone marrow match.
The transplant came just in the nick of time. According to Cluff, a match had to be found by Sept. 15, or there would have been “some not-so-good options” to keep Jake alive.
“We both cried!” said Sheila Cluff when they got the news. “We’ve been getting phone calls left and right. We’re so happy … it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, and we found it.”
More than 1,100 recently completed testing kits to find out if they were a match for Jake — or one of the 10,000 others worldwide currently awaiting a bone marrow transplant — at donor drives in San Francisco, Oxnard and Ojai.
While the family doesn’t know who the donor is — they can find out in a year if both parties are agreeable — they do know it was a woman, and that the woman’s marrow was a perfect 10 of 10 match for Jake.
But he isn’t out of the woods yet. According to family, the next 100 days will be crucial, as Jake’s body decides whether or not to accept the marrow. Prior to the transplant, Jake underwent four days of chemotherapy to prepare his body. Now, he’s isolated in his room for a month, with only hospital staff and family members allowed in. “The big fear is that, because of his depressed immune system, he is very subject to infection,” Cluff said. Even a common cold could be dangerous. By this weekend, she added, “there should be some indication whether the bone marrow, as Jake says, ‘Likes me.’”
Jake’s donor, Cluff continued, insisted on donating extra bone marrow, which has been frozen and can be given to Jake if this transplant doesn’t stick, giving him another chance at life.
The Larkins and Cluffs, of course, hope it doesn’t have to go that far.
Acknowledging the thousands of others still waiting for a bone marrow match, the family is organizing another donation drive Sept. 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ojai Valley Community Church, 907 El Centro St. As before, all that’s required of donors is a simple cheek swab, which will be tested and filed with the National Marrow Donor Program.
“The more we can bring this disease to light, the better. It’s been such a sleeper,” said Cluff.