In September 2020, the Carter family was preparing to move from Dayton to New Mexico. Just before they were about to leave, Adriel, the middle child in a “sister sandwich”, came down with a bad cough and swollen lymph nodes. Adriel’s parents, Collin and Jordan, took him to the emergency room, where he was initially diagnosed with strep throat. After a couple of weeks, Adriel’s symptoms were not getting better, so the Carters went back to the emergency room. This time, blood work was drawn.
The test results indicated that Adriel had a form of leukemia, and he was immediately admitted to the hematology/oncology unit at Dayton Children’s Hospital.
“That was a tough night. Our first nurse, Lisa, was phenomenal. She said she knew that a lot of things were really scary right now, but that we were going to get through it. She said the care team would become like family,” Collin remembers.
After admission, the Carters met with Mukund Dole, MD, hematology/oncology attending. Adriel was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, associated with a high-risk genetic mutation that increases the chances of recurrence after treatment. Dr. Dole went over the diagnosis in great detail with the Carters, explaining what was happening in Adriel’s body in lay terms, and then discussing the treatment plan.
Adriel started his chemotherapy, and the team determined that because his leukemia had a high-risk genetic mutation, Adriel would need a bone marrow transplant for the best chance of a cure. Fortunately, because of the close collaboration between Dayton Children’s and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital blood and marrow transplant (BMT) teams, Adriel would be able to continue to his chemotherapy and pre-transplant workup at Dayton Children’s, and go to Nationwide Children’s for the transplant itself. After the transplant, he would return to Dayton Children’s for post-transplant care. Dr. Dole would continue to be Adriel’s primary oncologist at Dayton Children’s, and work closely with Dr. Margaret Lamb from the Nationwide Children’s BMT team.
“Dayton Children’s and Nationwide Children’s worked everything out for us," Collin said.
"Dr. Lamb came over from Nationwide Children’s and we met with her and Jani [the BMT program coordinator at Dayton Children’s] to walk through the process. We did all of Adriel’s testing at Dayton Children’s, and then went to Nationwide Children’s for the transplant. Jani kept in touch from Dayton the whole time, getting everything coordinated for us, letting us know what to expect, really laying everything out for us."
the BMT transplants
Adriel did not have a good match in the bone marrow donor registry, however, he was eligible for a clinical trial at Nationwide Children’s using a half-matched parent as a donor. Unfortunately, his first transplant did not work and the donor stem cells did not grow. Luckily, the team worked quickly, and within a few weeks they successfully performed a second transplant from Collin. In total, Adriel was at Nationwide Children’s for about three months for his stem cell transplants and recovery process. Those three months were long for Collin and Jordan, staying with Adriel and managing his care while being apart from each other and their young kids.
“It was difficult, but having our support system at Dayton Children’s checking in, and knowing he was getting such great care at Nationwide Children’s helped make it easier,” Collin said. “Adriel actually met a friend at Dayton Children’s who went through the process about the same time, so they had good camaraderie going through their journey together. Once we were back at Dayton Children’s, the Nationwide Children’s team came here for regular follow-up visits, so that really helped too.”
a year after transplant
Adriel is now over a year out from his transplant and in remission from his leukemia, after having chemotherapy at Dayton Children’s, followed by the two transplants at Nationwide Children’s. Dr. Lamb and Dr. Rolla Abu Arja, her colleague from Nationwide Children’s, continue to see Adriel for his BMT follow-up visits in Dayton. He is still battling some of the side effects from the treatment, but he’s running, playing, laughing and jumping the same as before his diagnosis.
“We’ve been fortunate that Adriel has been able to continue to play all throughout his treatments. He loved to play with Nerf guns, going on little missions around the unit with his nurses when he was admitted. Adriel also loves video games, so they also set him up with a gaming system too. He never really stopped being him,” Collin said.
grateful to be close to home
While moving out of Ohio is still a possibility, the Carters are thankful to have been in Dayton throughout this journey. “We’re so lucky to have two great hospitals just down the road. We’ve really learned the value of good medical care and great staff. We appreciate all the staff who have helped us and been by our family’s side as we go through this.”