Tag Archives: illness

Mobility Matters: The Surprising Benefits Of Good Balance

Balance guru Helena Esmonde is the most senior neurological therapist at Penn Therapy & Fitness in Radnor, Pa. As we explore why mobility matters in honor of Mobility Awareness Month, she explains how balance can significantly influence our quality of life.

Helena Esmonde HelpHOPELive

Senior neuro therapist Helena Esmonde


Tell us about yourself!


I am a senior therapist II, and I participate in mentoring, teaching and research in addition to quality clinical care. As a neurologic and vestibular (inner ear balance) specialist, my focus is to provide individualized rehabilitation using evidence-based practice to ensure the best possible function and quality of life for my patients.


Why is balance important?


Balance is essentially the ability to keep your center of mass over your base of support, which is your two feet. With a working balance system, we can stand safely, react effectively, avoid falling when engaging in a planned movement, and walk and move without stumbling or falling.

balance

Balance is the ability to keep your center of mass over your two feet

When our balance is impaired, we are more likely to fall and get injured. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. Having the best balance possible minimizes the risks for serious and potentially life-altering injuries.


Which conditions can influence our balance?


Our balance can be impaired because of weakness, age, a neurological disease or injury, vision issues or decreased cognition. However, falling should not be seen as a normal part of aging or something that is inevitable. I often tell my patients, “Your auto-pilot for keeping your balance is not as automatic as you get older,” and that’s why patients train with us and learn how to move more safely.

fall

Falling should not be seen as a “normal” part of aging


How can poor balance affect your mind as well as your body?


There are a few different ways that balance can be emotionally and mentally distressing. When a person’s balance is impaired for any reason, that person lives in constant fear of injury and therefore tends to self-limit their activity. This can mean that they avoid exercise because of a fear of tripping on an uneven patch of sidewalk. That person then loses the mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise as well as the physical benefits.

isolate

Poor balance can invoke a fear of social environments

A person with poor balance often also chooses to avoid positive social experiences due to a fear of falling. For example, someone may not visit a friend because the friend does not have a railing next to their staircase, or they may not attend a party because of the fear of losing balance if someone bumps into them accidentally. Poor balance can lead to social isolation as well as physical deconditioning or disability.


How can physical therapy improve balance?


There are numerous advanced physical therapy techniques for training better balance, some of which are tailored to people with specific conditions. The focus of all such physical therapy is to key in on an individual patient’s goals. I am currently training an individual with MS who wants to be able to walk, dance and move safely at her daughter’s wedding in a month. Like most people with MS, she gets fatigued easily and finds that the fatigue negatively affects her balance. Another patient is trying to progress from using a walker to using a cane safely to free a hand for opening doors, carrying items and shaking someone’s hand in greeting. I try to focus on the goals that will bring quality to each unique person’s situation, whatever it may be.

balance

Could better balance improve your day-to-day interactions?


Can physical therapy be expensive?


Physical therapy is not as expensive as some other options, such as surgery, to correct balance issues. However, if a patient has a major injury or illness (including trauma, a stroke or a spinal cord injury) he or she will likely require therapy and rehabilitation for a longer time, including inpatient rehabilitation and home care, before “graduating” to an outpatient therapy setting. The numbers can add up.

wedding

“It’s hard to put a price on dancing at your daughter’s wedding”

Our main goal is helping patients get back to the highest level of functioning. It’s hard to put a price on dancing at your daughter’s wedding or shaking someone’s hand when you meet them. At Penn Therapy & Fitness, we offer a charitable care program for patients who are unable to afford their outpatient therapy. We also work with patients to help identify other resources that may help them afford care. This is one of the many reasons we appreciate partnerships with such wonderful organizations as HelpHOPELive!


Are there any ways to improve your balance at home?


Exercise is a critical element in decreasing your risk for balance issues and falls, but it’s important to understand what sort of exercise has the greatest benefit. Tai Chi, Pilates and yoga can improve balance, but for those who are not up for that level of challenge, strength in the hip muscles and core strength (belly and back muscle) are the most significant factors.

yoga

Try yoga to improve balance, or work on strengthening your body daily

Lie on your side and lift your top leg up and down. You’ll work important hip muscles that keep your pelvis stable for balance. In addition to exercise, have your vision checked at least yearly. Keep your mind sharp with crossword puzzles or other brain games that benefit your eyes and your brain! Taking action to prevent falls becomes more important as you age. Talk to your doctor and make sure you can keep your balance everywhere you want to go!


Need help covering the cost of rehabilitation to maintain your quality of life after a catastrophic injury or illness? Visit helphopelive.org to start a fundraising campaign with our nonprofit.

Life With A Rare Disease For 7-Year-Old Paul Mustol

At 6 years old, Paul Mustol was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Paul’s family began fundraising with HelpHOPELive in October 2015. Here is a look at life with DMD as told by Paul’s mother, Anna.

Anna and Paul Mustol HelpHOPELive

Paul with his mother, Anna


Describe a day in Paul’s life.


The morning begins with Paul calling to us to remove his nightly leg splints. We carry him downstairs. He takes two medications and several vitamin supplements with his breakfast. He needs assistance getting dressed. A special needs school bus arrives and Paul is loaded on the bus using a lift to avoid straining his legs.

Once he gets to school, he needs to rest before he does his work with the other students in his class. He needs extra help staying focused and understanding assignments. On a weekly basis, he receives therapy from a physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist.

At dinner, he takes a few more vitamins. We practice deep breathing to keep his breathing muscles strong. We stretch and massage his muscles to reduce muscle contractures. We put the splints back on his legs to stretch them during the night.

Mustol family HelpHOPELive

“We…just try to enjoy each day,” says mom, Anna


What’s the most difficult part of the day?


The most challenging part of each day is at the end of the day when Paul is tired and weak. Instead of running around or riding a bike outside with friends, he is exhausted. It is a reminder of what he will face in the future.

We try not to focus on all the difficulties to come, but instead just try to enjoy each day. We want to appreciate the time we have together. It is uplifting to see how Paul has persevered with a smile on his face through the tumult of the last five months since the diagnosis. We feel blessed by the support and love coming from our family, friends and church community. From the minute we shared his diagnosis, people have offered help and have clearly shown us that we are not alone.


What does hope mean to you?


Hope cannot be taken away by a disease. A disease may shorten a life or make it more challenging, but it does not take away the value of that life. We have hopes for him and for his life. We hope that he can see his life as an opportunity to make a positive impact on those around him. We hope that through his disease, he can teach others about perseverance and overcoming obstacles. Of course, we always hope for a cure for DMD.

Paul Mustol HelpHOPELive Duchenne muscular dystrophy

“Hope cannot be taken away by a disease.”


What do you fundraise for?


The average annual cost per person living with DMD is over $50,000. When we first received our son’s diagnosis, we had no idea of the cost involved. Even though it is a genetic disorder, no one in my family had ever received the diagnosis before; it can occur as the result of a spontaneous mutation. Health insurance covers some of the cost, but many expenses are only covered after we meet a high deductible.

We will always need to cover the cost of daily medications, weekly therapy sessions and doctor appointments. He needs tests like echocardiograms or pulmonary functioning tests from time to time as DMD weakens his heart and breathing muscles. Every six months, we travel to the certified DMD care clinic, which is out of our home state.


How will Paul’s needs change in the future?


Because DMD is a degenerative disease, my son’s needs will increase dramatically with time. He will need a power wheelchair full time and an accessible van and home if he loses function in his arms, hands or legs. He may also face surgeries for bone fractures and scoliosis. Eventually, he will need machines to help with breathing and palliative care. The average life expectancy for people living with DMD is around 25 years, but the type of medical care one receives can make a big difference. Today there are more and more cases of people living with DMD living into their early 30s thanks to medical advancements.


How can we recognize Rare Disease Day in honor of Paul?


Think of someone you know in your community that has a disability or is sick. Find a way to show him or her kindness, whether through an act of service or just through a conversation. See the individual as valuable and important; don’t just see his or her disease. If the person wants to share his or her experience with the disease, listen and educate yourself. Ask how he or she is doing, and listen for more than just a standard quick response. If you are able, share your contact information and indicate that you are available to help if the need arises.

Paul Mustol HelpHOPELive muscular dystrophy

Celebrate Rare Disease Day in honor of Paul

The more attention rare diseases get, the more likely it is that researchers and pharmaceutical companies will investigate ways of treating these diseases. Awareness and knowledge also allows for earlier detection and diagnosis.


Follow Paul’s journey with DMD or donate in his honor on his HelpHOPELive Campaign Page. If you or someone you love is living with a rare disease or other catastrophic illness, start a fundraising campaign with our nonprofit to help offset medical and related expenses.

Voices of Hope: Living Well With A Chronic Illness

Anna Crum was in junior high school when she began to experience persistent double vision and sixth cranial nerve palsy in her left eye. An MRI revealed that Anna was fighting relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). Anna explains how she holds onto hope while fighting the debilitating mental and physical effects of RRMS.

Anna Crum MS HelpHOPELive

Anna Crum is living with multiple sclerosis.


How do your RRMS symptoms disrupt your daily life?


Shortly after the diagnosis, I became legally blind and had to learn to read Braille and rely on a cane for mobility. My current list of symptoms has grown to include a different diplopia (double vision) in each eye, color discrepancy, contrast loss, nerve pain on the left side of my face, muscle weakness in my left leg, short-term memory difficulties, fatigue, bowel and bladder dysfunction, and the occasional slurred speech. Without special lenses, I would not be able to read or drive.

My symptoms are unpredictable. On a given day, there is a long list of things that can go wrong. But you try to plan and compensate as best you can to hopefully manage some of the more severe symptoms to prevent them from hindering your daily life.


What has been the most difficult part of your struggle with RRMS?


MS finds a way to keep chipping away at your independence. In my case, it took everything I had to make it through college. Despite my success, I am now living back at home, unable to work full time and leaning on family for support. MS forces you to reach out. Admitting you need help and accepting it can be very difficult, especially if you are naturally an introverted person who is goal-driven and independent.


Why do you think people with MS sometimes hide their illness from the world?


You encounter enough people who don’t understand and eventually you learn to blend in. I have many times described myself as an illusionist and I am sure other people living with chronic illnesses can relate. People don’t see the preparation or the aftermath.

Everything in my life has become so calculated. I plan how much walking I will need to do in a day, how many hours of energy I have, how much my eyes can handle or how much pain I can tolerate ahead of time. Everything is staged. Seldom do I let people see the daily struggle [and] the days where I can’t even get out of bed.


Do you have a resolution for 2016?


This year, I am focusing on transparency, community and relationships. The National MS Society has a saying: “Multiple sclerosis destroys connections inside us. It disconnects the mind from the body and people from each other.” Too often, people with a chronic illness suffer in silence. When I was first diagnosed, I started advocating for awareness. It was a passion of mine. But eventually I lost the energy. All the energy I had focused on just surviving. Eventually I chose silence for security and traded my voice for a disguise in an attempt to mask my disease.

This year, I want to use my voice again; I want to make an impact. Hopefully my journey will help inspire someone else to keep pushing through. Too often those suffering wait until it’s dire before they reach out for help. Keeping the disease invisible gives it that much more power and it confines you. I want to inspire someone, somewhere, to not give up.


Why do you plan to embrace your MS this year?


At times it feels like a door slams in your face everywhere you turn, but you keep going, one step at a time. Eventually, MS gave me a new path. Because of my disease, I found a passion and hopefully an eventual career as a dietitian. I want to help others manage their symptoms as best as possible, improve their quality of life, and help them learn to thrive despite an illness. Nutrition isn’t a cure, but it can make a huge impact.

Anna Crum HelpHOPELive nutrition

Anna plans to help people with MS manage their nutrition.


What advice can you give to someone newly diagnosed with MS?

Make your health your number one priority. I paid dearly for the instances where my priority became school or some other goal where I pushed myself too hard. Don’t push yourself to go at anyone else’s pace or to meet anyone else’s expectations.

Focusing on what you stand to lose or have lost is too overwhelming. Instead, focus on what your disease adds to your life. This disease builds character, teaches resourcefulness, ingenuity, adaptability, resilience, and gives you a unique perspective. You are stronger than you know, and maybe you can inspire someone with your unique story to find their own strength. Focus on what keeps you hopeful, and hold onto your tenacity.


What does hope mean to you?

To me, hope encompasses endless possibilities. There are always new ways to adapt, a new perspective to discover, new lessons to learn, new relationships to form. There is ALWAYS a reason to keep persevering.


Anna is currently studying to become a registered dietitian and is working on a photography project on the invisible symptoms of MS. She is fundraising with HelpHOPELive for a stem cell transplant that could improve her life with RRMS.

How Your Donation Will Support Our Nonprofit Mission

In addition to helping us to provide emergency assistance grants, your contribution will help fuel our mission to support community-based fundraising for people with unmet medical and related expenses due to cell and organ transplants or catastrophic injuries and illnesses. Learn why that matters so much to families across the country.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


How HelpHOPELive Serves Families


Roughly 20% of families who have health insurance still struggle to cover their medical expenses. We understand that a medical crisis can create a severe emotional, physical and financial burden for any family. Community support, where relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers get involved in fundraising efforts, is often a vital untapped resource that can help people pay for uncovered medical expenses.

When a family chooses to fundraise with HelpHOPELive, they benefit from:

  • An online Campaign Page where they can ask friends and family for life-changing donations and receive messages of support
  • One-on-one consultation from one of our expert Fundraising Coordinators to help them develop a personalized campaign that is tailored to the needs and interests of the patient and their support network.
  • Custom fundraising materials like event flyers, awareness materials and press releases
  • The opportunity to earn Challenge Grants by reaching fundraising milestones
  • Our nonprofit status: fundraising support that does not jeopardize their medical coverage status (Medicaid, SSI)and the opportunity for their community members to make tax deductible contributions
  • Expert fundraising advice backed by more than 30 years of experience building successful campaigns

For many clients struggling with life-changing conditions, we are more than just a fundraising resource: we are a lifeline set apart by our compassion and expertise. In fact, in a 2014 survey, 92% of respondents rated our customer service as Excellent, Very Good or Good and 91% said they would recommend HelpHOPELive to another family or had already done so.


What Clients Say About Us


“We have had numerous experiences with nonprofit organizations and HelpHOPELive has been the best we have ever worked with. Compassionate, always ready to support and help, they have been rock steady in their devotion to those in need.”

The name HelpHOPELive says it all.”

“HelpHOPELive is a huge relief to me during a very stressful time.”

If it were not for HelpHOPELive, my son would never have received his transplant.

“Tangible financial support has helped immensely, by lifting a burden that would otherwise be hovering and weighing over us”

Many families would not be able to cover their vital medical expenses without fundraising. Your donations will help us to continue providing key fundraising support to families that depend on it.


We Still Need Your Help To Spread Hope!


We rely on contributors like you to help us continue serving families coping with the financial burden of uncovered medical expenses. Find out how you can keep hope alive for these families with your donation and support.

In The News: Mom Recovers From Five-Organ Transplant

Looking at family pictures, you might assume that Melinda Nelson is a typical wife and mother of three. Beneath the surface, her story is anything but ordinary. In September, Melinda underwent a life-changing five-organ transplant to combat a rare illness that made it impossible for her to eat or drink without the assistance of a feeding tube.

Melinda Nelson transplant HelpHOPELive

Melinda is a wife and mother of three.

Melinda was born with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIP). The disorder lead to inefficient intestinal contractions, which made ordinary digestion and nutrition impossible for her body to maintain. By age 38, she was unable to draw any nutrition from food orally, and nightly intravenous treatments became her sole source of nutrition.

CIP was breaking down her health and diminishing her body’s ability to fight back. Melinda knew she would need a major breakthrough to remain in the lives of her “three babes,” 11-year-old Chad, 7-year-old Grace, and 6-year-old Hannah. A high-risk multi-visceral transplant – of the liver, stomach, intestine and pancreas – became her only hope.

Melinda had been fundraising with HelpHOPELive for less than a year when she got the call for her transplant. Thanks to the donations made in her honor, Melinda was able to afford the 1,821-mile journey from her hometown in Idaho to a specialized transplant center in Indiana where she received the gift of life.

Melinda Nelson after transplant HelpHOPELive

Fundraising enabled Melinda to relocate for a lifesaving transplant.

“I can’t even imagine giving a gift like that, because that donor didn’t just give me a second chance, he gave my kids their mom,” said Melinda in an interview with KTVB 7. Melinda will spend the holidays recovering from the procedure and celebrating the possibility of a brighter and healthier future.

(Meridian mom recovering after five-organ transplant)

Meet Live Award Honoree Aaron Loy

We present our 2015 Live award to HelpHOPELive client Aaron Loy for inspiration after illness following a double amputation after severe complications from bacterial meningitis.

In 2013, Aaron Loy was a dedicated student and a passionate athlete who enjoyed lacrosse, soccer, surfing and biking. As a freshman at the University of California Santa Barbara, Aaron was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive strain of bacterial meningitis with no U.S.-approved vaccine. The disease progressed rapidly, causing a blood infection and severe internal complications.

Three other university students recovered from the meningitis outbreak with no permanent damage. Aaron’s illness took a different course. Doctors were able to save Aaron and provide antibiotics to eradicate the illness, but only after amputating both of his lower legs.

Aaron Loy prosthetics meningitis

Aaron Loy lost his legs to bacterial meningitis. Picture courtesy of the LA Times.

Watching his own story covered on the news, Aaron recalls lying in the hospital in a state of shock, thinking, “No, I don’t think this is real…I don’t want this to be true.” The catastrophic event shook Aaron and his community to the core. Family members and classmates from Aaron’s hometown and the University of California Santa Barbara community immediately turned to HelpHOPELive to help cover his pressing medical expenses, including co-pays, prosthetics and intensive physical rehabilitation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Friends planned dozens of fundraisers from percentage of sales nights to bake sales and car washes. In December of 2013, supporters from Aaron’s home lacrosse team organized the Aaron Loy Lacrosse Shootout, an all-ages event that invited 300 players to complete in honor of Aaron. The event raised more than $18,000 towards Aaron’s medical bills.

Discharged after three months in the hospital, Aaron was too weak to maneuver his own wheelchair. But he set his sights on a formidable goal: regaining his independence by literally getting back on his feet. Aaron took his first steps in prosthetic legs in March of 2014. He continued to practice diligently, improving his strength and coordination at prosthetic therapy sessions three to five times each week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Within a year of his diagnosis, Aaron had fought his way to a fulfilling and independent life that included returning to college 200 miles away from his home community, biking to class and hanging out with his friends. And he’s not done yet: Aaron plans to get back on the lacrosse field, go snowboarding and devote his time to helping others who have experienced catastrophic injuries to defy the odds.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“He gets up every day with a smile on his face, puts his legs on and just carries on,” his mother, Kirsten, told NBC San Diego in 2014. “While his body recovers, his spirits and optimism remain high.”

Image courtesy of the LA Times.

Aaron lives with grace and motivation after illness. Image courtesy of the LA Times.

help-hope-live-it-upThe Live award will be presented to Aaron at this year’s HelpHOPE-Live it Up! benefit on October 16.

Learn more about Aaron.

Each year at HelpHOPELive’s annual signature fundraising event, HelpHOPE-Live It Up!, we honor community heroes who prove why our mission matters with the Help, HOPE and Live awards. In 2015, we’re also giving out an Advocacy and Volunteer of the Year award.

Nick’s Fight Against Aplastic Anemia

Nick Karavite was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called aplastic anemia at age 13. His bone marrow stopped producing enough vital blood cell varieties which caused his immune system to attack itself. Nick’s treatment included extended hospital stays and testing, chemotherapy and, finally, a bone marrow transplant from his 6-year-old sister, Mandy, exactly one year ago today. We spoke to Nick and his mother, Pam, about his transplant journey.

Mandy Karavite chemotherapy Nick Karavite aplastic anemia

Nick encourages everyone to sign up as a bone marrow donor.


Walk us through the first few days.


Pam: To be honest, everything happened so fast that none of us had much time to process it. One day Nick was pitching a no-hitter, and the next day he had red spots all over him, a fever and exhaustion. I took him to the pediatrician and they did blood work and immediately sent us to the hospital. We were met by an entourage of doctors and nurses and escorted right to another room – no E.R., no waiting room. By the next morning, a bone marrow biopsy was performed and he was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

We went from a routine visit to the pediatrician on Monday to hearing that our son could die on Wednesday. There just wasn’t any time to think, just react.


How much did you know about aplastic anemia when you were first diagnosed?


Nick: I didn’t know anything about aplastic anemia, and I had never heard of the disease before. In fact, nobody in my family had any experience with the disease. Even though I knew nothing at the beginning, I could probably tell you everything about the whole process at this point!

HelpHOPELive: Aplastic anemia is a rare disorder that causes an individual’s immune system to attack and destroy the body’s bone marrow. Fewer than 1,000 cases are diagnosed annually in the U.S. It is uncertain what causes aplastic anemia to occur.

hospital Nick Karavite aplastic anemia

Post-diagnosis, Nick spent extensive amounts of time in the hospital.


Was your family worried about you?


Nick: Yes, my family members were very worried. My mom would think about it every single night as she watched me sleep – she wanted to change places with me. But they didn’t let that worry get in the way. The same goes for my friends. Instead of overloading me with questions about it, they just cared for me.

Pam: We had our moments (I call them 80/20 days). Nick’s doctor told us that even with his sister, Mandy, as a bone marrow match, his chance of survival was 80%. I had days where I couldn’t shake the 20%. Once, I was packing a bag in Nick’s closet before heading back to the hospital and I had a vision of packing up his closet for good. I fell apart, began sobbing, sniffing his clothes, falling to my knees and begging God to leave my son here. I started calling them ‘closet moments’ – if I ever needed to cry, I would go find a closet so that Nick never knew.

Make A Wish Pamela Karavite Nick Karavite aplastic anemia

One year ago today, Nick gives his mother a Make A Wish medal.


Were you scared?


Nick: I wasn’t too scared, because I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen. I was learning more about the condition and focusing on what needed to happen next. I guess there is mild, moderate and severe aplastic anemia. I had severe aplastic anemia, but my parents never shared that or my survival odds with me until after I made it through.


What helped your family remain positive?


Pam: We were united in our common love for Nick, but I feel we remained positive because of God’s hand in things. I spent a lot of nights watching Nick sleep, wondering why this was happening. I still am not clear as to the “why,” but I am sure that God had a hand in preparing us for this battle for three reasons.

First, five years ago, God blessed us with the surprise of Mandy, who ended up being Nick’s ideal bone marrow match. Second, I had started work on my Masters in Special Education before Nick’s diagnosis, which equipped me perfectly to home school Nick for three quarters of his 8th grade year while he pursued treatment. Third, we moved our children to a different school district prior to his diagnosis, and the support of this new community became a true lifeline for our family when Nick was diagnosed.

hospital bed Nick Karavite aplastic anemia

The Karavite family sought to stay positive
throughout treatment.

The community really rallied to keep us lifted. Local parents put us in touch with HelpHOPELive, helped us cook meals and clean and held fundraisers in Nick’s honor. His peers at school even donated their allowance to his campaign. Teachers went above and beyond for Nick – his basketball coach gave him an honorary spot on the team even though he wouldn’t be able to play. Based on all we were armed with for this fight, it was hard not to remain positive.


Was fundraising an important part of the journey?


Pam: Fundraising was a HUGE part of our journey. The money raised through HelpHOPELive helped with anything insurance didn’t cover; the greatest help was when it allowed us to relocate for Nick’s hospital stay. One of the smartest things we did was to keep our family together: from the very beginning, I knew we needed to be at Nick’s side at the hospital 24/7. I knew we had Nick, the sick boy; Mandy, the donor; and two other boys that could potentially get lost in the shuffle. We agreed that keeping together was the best way to maintain some kind of ‘normal’.

Because of the help we received via donations from family and friends, one of us was able to be at Nick’s side every step of the way, and the other parent could be with our other children to provide them with ‘normal’ family time. Our psychologist has since told us that this one act, keeping our family together, was instrumental in getting us through this journey with the least amount of upheaval. Fundraising made that possible for us.

wheelchair friends family Nick Karavite aplastic anemia

Family and friends provided support and fundraising help.


What was the treatment like?


Nick: I went through a few treatments and then chemotherapy. I didn’t realize how sick it would make me. I got chemo for four days. Every night, all I could think about was being one day closer to going home again.

The bone marrow transplant only took a couple of hours, but I had to stay in the hospital for a month afterwards. A lot of people brought me games and things to do in the hospital to pass the time. I wasn’t able to eat for the first two weeks! The doctors wanted me to fill up on protein, but until I could get there, I had to get liquid nutrients through an IV for every single meal to stay healthy. I have a few scars from the treatment process.


What three words would you use to describe how it feels to go through diagnosis and treatment?


Nick: Scary. Unknowing. Shocked.

Nick Karavite aplastic anemia chemotherapy bone marrow transplant

Nick endured chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.


What advice would you give to another family that is facing a battle with aplastic anemia?


Pam: Well, there is always the obvious: stay off the Internet! I didn’t allow myself to look at how awful this disease can be until after I felt good about where Nick was in his treatment. But my central piece of advice is this: accept help. I can be terrible at doing this myself, but the help we received SAVED us. It is a very humbling experience but a very necessary piece to surviving such a trying ordeal. The emotional scars are certainly here to stay for all of us, but I can honestly say they would be far worse had we not accepted the help everyone so willingly offered.


What do you think everyone out there should know about aplastic anemia or becoming a bone marrow donor?


Nick: They should know that the treatment process is a lot harder than it sounds. Even though it’s not cancer, aplastic anemia can be harder to treat than leukemia.

The chances of living with aplastic anemia without a donor are 50%. It goes up to 80% with a donor. Not only that, but the bone marrow donation process is pretty much painless – all they do is put an IV in you and put you to sleep, then take your bone marrow. The donor’s cells replenish themselves in 4 to 6 weeks.

Mandy Karavite bone marrow donor donationNick Karavite aplastic anemia

Nick received bone marrow from his younger sister, Mandy.

My 6-year-old sister was my donor, and her least favorite part was the over-the-counter medicine she took after the procedure – she didn’t like the taste of it! She was able to keep going with her life right after the procedure. She was out swimming the next day!

Everyone should sign up to be a bone marrow donor. All you have to do is sign up, swab your cheeks and that’s it, and you can save a life.


You just graduated from eighth grade. What are you looking forward to in high school?


Nick: I’m excited about starting a few different classes like biology and math. Science and math are my best subjects. I’ll also have about 15 of my friends starting high school with me.

Pamela Karavite Nick Karavite aplastic anemia recovery graduation eighth grade

Nick graduated from eighth grade with his mom by his side.


What do you want to be when you grow up?


Nick: I love baseball and I would definitely like to play baseball professionally, but I know that might be a long shot. After going through this treatment, one of my career goals is to be an anesthesiologist. Whenever I had a surgery or treatment, I would ask about anesthesia and being an anesthesiologist. It’s a really interesting system. It puts you to sleep very fast! That was a memorable experience.


Baseball is one of your favorite pastimes. What is it that you love about the game?


Nick: I like hitting, pitching, fielding, playing on a team, all of it! I’ve been playing baseball since I was four and started off with tee-ball. My favorite professional teams are the Cubs and Tigers. I’ve been to a Tigers game before. My favorite pitcher is David Price, who pitches for the Tigers. He’s a leftie like me, and he’s a good pitcher.

Nick Karavite baseball bat hospital aplastic anemia

Nick loves to play baseball.


What’s your best pitch?


Nick: Every pitch is my best pitch!


Thank you for the great conversation, Nick and Pam. To learn more about Nick or donate to HelpHOPELive in his honor, visit his Campaign Page.