On Aug. 24th, Savannah had been complaining of several mosquito bites that had been bothering her. After trying cortisone, the bites had only gotten worse and had turned into large bruises. We visited the Doctor on Aug 30th, who diagnosed them as ‘dry bites’ that looked to be healing. Savannah had also been complaining of a sore throat, so she was tested for strep, which came back negative.
On September 6th, Savannah thought that she had been bitten again, and her bruises had only gotten larger and she was now complaining about being tired and her legs hurting. After dropping her off at school that morning, I could tell that something was wrong.
Within the first 5 minutes of the visit, Dr Rasmussen had already spoken the words Leukemia or Lymphoma. He sent us for lab work immediately. 3 hrs later, Savannah was flown via Angel One Helicopter to Children's Hospital in Little Rock. Her white blood cell count was 150,000 and the normal range is 7K - 11K. Her platelet count was 27,000 and the normal range is 150k - 450K. She had the highest white blood cell count that our Doctor had ever seen. At Children's Hospital, we were finally given a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Within 12 hours, she was transformed from a girl in the midst of her senior year in high school to a cancer patient. No Senior Homecoming, no Senior Prom, and very unlikely that she would even be able to walk with her class in May.
Savannah was admitted to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where she spent the next 6 weeks undergoing chemotherapy. She was able to spend Thanksgiving at home, but Sunday afternoon spiked a fever and was flown back to Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock. She spent another 3 weeks in Little Rock before being released to go home for Christmas.
On December 26th, she was admitted in Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital, which we selected because they are one of the top 5 Bone Marrow Transplant units in the nation. Savannah underwent a bone marrow transplant on January 5th, 2018. She spent the next three weeks building up her strength and was released on January 26th. She stayed in Houston for tests and to ensure that the grafting occurs.
On February 5th, we learned that the transplant had failed and her body was rejecting the donor stem cells. She was admitted back to the hospital on February 6th with a fever and we are now beginning the process all over again. I (her father) am a match, and have been selected as her next donor. As a father, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to save my daughter’s life, but the pressure is great. This transplant will take place on 3/1/2018.
Savannah’s brother (younger by 17 months) is her best friend. They have been inseparable since birth. With Hannah’s diagnosis, his life has been completely turned upside down Although he has been struggling, not being able to see his sister for weeks at a time, he has continued the fight for his best friend. He has done a great job, but, understandably, it has been incredibly challenging for him as well.
Throughout this experience, Savannah has been absolutely incredible and stunningly resilient. Her contagious and truly positive spirit has been a blessing to all around her. She is our dragon slayer - she will beat this dragon - she is determined.
We all have cancer. Yes, Savannah is battling it on the front lines, but we battle it behind her, supporting her, loving her, praying for her. It’s not how I want to see my baby girl spend her senior year and her 18th birthday, but I’m blessed with a daughter who is a fighter and will not lay down for this disease. She is my Dragon Slayer and my Tiny Hero!!