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Superstorm Sandy

Storm victim needs bone marrow transplant

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By DR. MANNY ALVAREZ, Fox News

MYFOXNY.COM -- Hurricane Sandy destroyed homes and devastated communities all along the East Coast. But for the Heckman family the storm dealt an especially hard blow after destroying their home in Amity Harbor, N.Y.

"I thought nothing could get worse after my son was diagnosed and then to see this, you know, to come back, the hardest part was going into their room and every toy we have ever gotten for them was gone," said Danielle Heckman. In August 2011, Heckman's middle child, Steven, now 6, was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia.

"We evacuated as quickly as we could," Heckman said. "It was barely possible because the water came over the canal even before the storm and was up to our front porch within fifteen minutes."

Steven said: "I was scared that the house was going to break."

The moment they returned and realized they would be homeless, Danielle feared the worst.

"A shelter is not an option at all his immune system is suppressed, and with flu season going around… for Steven to be exposed to that, he'll be back in the hospital," Heckman said.

While the Heckman family is planning on rebuilding their home, they hope for something else a bit more life changing: finding a bone marrow match for their son.

"To know that there is a match, that means that my son will have an even greater chance of getting through this," Heckman said.

Leukemia affects the blood and bone marrow, the spongy center of bones where blood cells are formed. It develops when those blood cells begin to grow out of control.

Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation kill diseased cells, but they also remove healthy ones, leaving the patient with a weakened immune system.

"In order to give the patient a new immune system you need the bone marrow to come in of a matching donor," said Katherine Harf of the DKMS Bone Marrow Donor Center.

Donations can be made in two ways: peripheral blood stem cell donation is like giving blood or bone marrow donation collects cells from the backside of the pelvic bone using a special syringe.

"DKMS is the largest bone marrow center in the world and our big dream is to provide a donor for every single patient in need," Harf said.

The first step in helping to save a life is to register. Go to getswabbed.org to learn how.

"A match for Steven would be a lifeline," Harf said. "If he knows he can find a donor then he knows that he would have that second chance."

That would mean Steven could have more years to do the things he loves:

"Playing with my toys and playing with my two sisters," he said.

"I want him to grow up, go to college, get a really awesome job that he's happy and proud of," his mother said. "Basically have that fairytale ending."

For more information on the bone marrow registry and the Heckman family's fundraising website see:

www.dkmsamericas.org/

www.gofundme.com/

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