Community bands together to find bone marrow donor

12-year-old diagnosed with aggressive form of leukemia

August 01, 2014 at 10:03 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Sam Wheeldon (right) was diagnosed with leukemia last year and needs to find a bone marrow donor.
Sam Wheeldon (right) was diagnosed with leukemia last year and needs to find a bone marrow donor.
St. Charles Parish residents have come together to attempt to find a bone marrow donor for a 12-year-old Arizona boy who suffers from leukemia.

Sam Wheeldon, who has family members in Luling, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia on Oct. 9. Since then he has undergone intensive treatment including chemotherapy and blood and platelet transfusions.

Unfortunately, the treatments have not eradicated the cancer and Wheeldon has been left with only one choice – to find a bone marrow donor.

Usually in the case of leukemia a sibling is the best match for a bone marrow transplant. Wheeldon’s sister was a 70 percent match, but for the treatment to be successful the match needs to be above 90 percent. So Wheeldon’s family members have turned to local communities for help.

Although Wheeldon lives in Arizona, his cousin, Amanda Saucier, is a Luling native who is asking people to help out.

Saucier said the entire family was shocked when Wheeldon was diagnosed with leukemia last fall.

“Sam has a blood disorder. It causes him to bruise. He woke up one morning and found that his leg was covered in bruises,” she said. “They took him to the hospital and found that it was actually leukemia.”

After unsuccessfully undergoing aggressive treatment, Wheeldon’s last chance at a cure for the disease is finding a bone marrow donor match.

“We are just hoping we’ll find someone with all of these people. We know strangers have been matches before so we are really trying to be optimistic,” she said.

Those interested in helping are asked to come to the Fishing for Frankie tournament on Saturday, Aug. 2 at Pier 90 in Luling from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. to have their cheek swabbed to see if they are a match.

Saucier received help with the bone marrow donor drive from Vicki Bergeron, of Luling, who lost her son Kyle to leukemia seven years ago.

“I feel like God is putting these people in my path for a reason. I just feel compelled to do something to help,” Bergeron said. “Whether it be talking to them or being here to walk them through a blood drive or a bone marrow drive...whatever it takes, I just feel I need to do something.”

Bergeron said although there is only a small chance that someone in St. Charles Parish will be a match for Wheeldon, they will be entered into a system that will match them with leukemia patients across the nation who are in need of bone marrow transplants.

“We are doing this drive for Sam, but once they do the swab they are in the registry for life. You could possibly be a match for somebody else,” she said.

If someone were to be a match they would receive an all-expenses paid trip to the hospital where Wheeldon, or another leukemia patient, is receiving treatment.

Wheeldon has just begun another round of chemotherapy as well as stem cell treatments and if a match were found it would be perfect timing.

“Sam has remained positive and strong throughout his treatments. He stays as active as he possibly can. Even while visiting him in the hospital, nauseated from chemotherapy, Sam’s cheerful manner and strength was apparent,” Saucier said. “From the maturity he displayed, to the cravings for strawberry milkshakes, his attitude has been one of inspiration.”

In addition to the support from Bergeron, Saucier said she has already received plenty of positive feedback from the community.

“It just shows how close this area is. Everyone just cares about everyone,” Saucier said.

A previous bone marrow drive held for Wheeldon at Mariano’s Italian Eatery in Luling resulted in 20 participants providing samples and 10 more do-it-yourself kits being taken home for other participants who could not make it.

For those who may not be able to attend the Fishing for Frankie event, but would still like to be tested, Bergeron is willing to assist in getting a sample and can be contacted by phone at (985) 785-0346 or (985) 233-9226. She can also be reached by email at  

View other articles written Kyle Barnett

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