Brooklyn Park girl hopes for successful bone marrow transplant

Ashley Calhoun may be confined to a hospital room, but she's still a competitive, fun-loving, 10-year-old girl ... with sisters who won't let her win a game of Uno.

Yet, ask Ashley what brought her to the University of Minnesota's Amplatz Children's Hospital, and her mood takes a more somber tone.

"Because [of] a bone marrow transplant," Ashley said.

A bone marrow transplant that will come from a generous donor: her 9-year-old sister, Brittany.

"If she had no match for the bone marrow transplant, she would only have six to nine months more to live," Brittany said. "But with the bone marrow transplant she could live for a long time, so I'm happy cause I'm like, saving her life."

Ashley has traveled a long road to get to this point. Three and a half years ago, family members say she was diagnosed with leukemia.

"She hit total remission this summer," said Jay Calhoun, her father. "And was in remission from four and a half to seven months, off all her drugs. And a day before Christmas we had to rush her to the hospital with trouble breathing."

Doctors discovered that the leukemia returned. Fighting it requires something that's all too familiar with Ashley -- chemotherapy.

However, the chemotherapy wipes out her immune system, which is what makes the bone marrow transplant necessary.

"We can use donor bone marrow cells given back to Ashley to recreate her immune system and that'll occur several days after her chemotherapy," said Troy Lund, MD, of Amplatz Children's Hospital.

Lund says the procedure offers Ashley the best hope for long term remission.

Meanwhile, Ashley's people from Birch Grove Elementary, as well as perfect strangers have reached out to the family to offer their support.

"They're giving my dad all these kind of messages, saying 'I believe Ashley can go do this' and 'she can make it,'" Brittany said. "So whenever people say 'I believe,' that means I can believe it too."

The bone marrow transplant will happen on Monday, April 9, but it will take months to determine whether the transplant was effective. 

Delane Cleveland

April 3, 2012


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