Dental school employees, students chip in to help staff member
Teresa Patterson hoped her colleagues at the School of Dentistry could help by turning out at a bone marrow screening drive for her son, but what happened
Nearly 120 students, staff and faculty were screened to determine if they were a match for Patterson's son Nathan.
"I'm overwhelmed with the love and support from everyone here," Patterson said.
Her son is a child of African American/Caucasian descent who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia Sept. 19, his 14th birthday.
"That news was the second whammy our family received in the past year," said Patterson, who works in the school's dental stores facility. A year earlier, her husband, Jerome, was diagnosed with kidney failure and has been on a waiting list for a transplant.
When Nathan began getting sick earlier this year, the Pattersons thought he had a cold. But after three visits to the doctor and some antibiotics, Patterson said her husband suspected something more serious was wrong.
"He called me at work one afternoon and said that Nathan came home from school and went straight to bed," she said. "That wasn't like him. He's always been active, including playing baseball since he was 5."
Their concern intensified when they saw what looked like pink dots on Nathan's feet. Patterson said when they visited their pediatrician, he told them to go to an emergency room for a blood test. Two hours after arriving at the U-M Hospital and being given the tests, Nathan was diagnosed with the illness and was admitted.
He has undergone two rounds of chemotherapy, each round including 96 hours of continuous treatment followed by six days of rest. Nathan came home the same day of the bone marrow screening drive at the dental school.
The marrow screening drive was conducted simultaneously with the school's annual blood drive. Tim Deventer, who works with Patterson in dental stores, said he waited in line about 45 minutes for his marrow screening.
"We're a family in dental stores, and something like this affects all of us," he said. "It was the least I could do to help a fellow worker who is also a friend."
"Teresa has been so caring and kind to all of us," said dental student Maria Demashkieh. "This is my way of trying to help her and give something back."
Justin Smith, president of the Dental Class of 2005, said, "I wanted my marrow screened because I thought my biracial background would give Nathan better odds for a match and, ultimately, success."
Another fourth-year dental student, Kelly Misch, said she has donated blood every fall during the annual blood drive. But this year, she said, her efforts took on added importance.
"I also wanted to see if my marrow might be a match for Nathan. But I'm not just doing it for him; I'm also doing it for Teresa because she's always been helping us." Misch, who has met Nathan several times, said "he's a cute, funny guy with a great sense of humor."
The response among students, staff and faculty goes beyond the blood marrow screenings.
"Every night for the past six weeks we have had a home-cooked meal that has been made by students, other employees in dental stores and faculty members," Patterson said. Her son "especially enjoyed the minestrone soup made by Joyce Cicchelli, a dental assistant, and Tim Deventer's Honey Baked ham," she said.
"The people herethe students, the staff, the facultythey're good people who have given me so much support."
As Julian Miller finished his marrow screening, the dental student said he was impressed with the turnout among his classmates. "Wouldn't it be something," he said, "if a match for Nathan came from someone here at the dental school? That would be so sweet."
Bone marrow screening and blood collection drives
There will be four bone marrow screening and blood collection drives this month: 2-8 p.m. Nov. 15, 16, 17 and 18 at the Michigan Union.
To sign up in advance, go to http://www.givelife.org. Look for "Donor Log in" in the upper right-hand corner. At "sponsor code," enter "go blue." For more information, call (734) 353-0206.