Wednesday, December 05, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is...

Some Platelets, Red Blood Cells & Bone Marrow

Jillian and mom, Michelle, get the cuff around the ankle to determine her blood pressure. She just wants to kick for exercise, the baby said.

To help this family go to these

What Does Jillian Need For Christmas – platelets, red blood cells and a bone marrow Donor Will Do

By Diana L. Chapman

Peeking quietly into the hospital room, it seemed like any normal family gathering. Two little girls, a beaming, blond 4-year-old named, Anna, and her baby sister, 23-month old Jillian flopped on the floor. Toys were scattered about them-- and a visiting dog named, Huxley, happily snatched treats from their tiny hands – making the girls giggle.
Their parents, Michelle and Matt Litton, smiled proudly like it was Christmas morning. But the gifts the parents need this holiday aren’t the usual suspects such as a litany of toys, books and music.
The San Pedro couple desperately need Santa to bring red blood cells, platelets and a matching bone marrow from a willing donor on his sleigh – in case their sweet, impish tot, Jillian, needs it to survive. It was Oct. 3 when the family doctor called and told Michelle that Jillian had leukemia, not just any leukemia, but a rare form called acute myelogenous leukemia. They needed to meet with her right away.
Racing over to Miller Childrens Hospital in Long Beach, Michelle swept in the room to hear the bad news and the cycles of chemotherapy Jillian would need. At last, the family had learned the answer to the disconcerting bruises that had freckled Jillians’ body accompanied with a fever, and later complaints from the tot that her feet and ears hurt.
As for most parents, the first appearance of symptoms seemed like the flu.
“But there were a few weird things, like I sat her down for lunch,” said her father Matt. “She hadn’t eaten anything, but when I picked her up, her stomach was hard as a rock. It felt as tight as a drum.”
Doctors later told them that Jillian’s spleen and liver had swollen – and she couldn’t fight off an ear infection with the antibiotics because of her underlying illness, plunging the couple into a nightmarish whirlwind in learning about leukemia, platelets and bone marrow swabs -- more than anyone would ever care to know.
Ironically, the couple knew more than most would, having already supported St. Jude’s Research Hospital, which specializes in pediatric cancer. For Michelle, those little faces and stories of life-threatening illnesses haunted her so she and her husband registered as bone marrow donors should a need ever arise for any child. She even blasted out an e-mail asking her friends to do the same.
The couple had agreed among themselves to do all of this before they found out about their own daughter – and unfortunately, they are not a match for Jillian.
Parents typically aren’t a match for their own children (even though its genetically driven) and in this case, Anna, is not a match either, Michelle explained. So the hunt is on for someone who is -- and those who take the time to register would be on the list and could be a match for Jillian and hundreds of other children.
“You’d be more of a match than me,” explained Michelle, who now knows more about bone marrow and registering for it then she had ever planned on. Due to the costs, the family and friends have held fundraisers to try to make registration fees cheaper.
Furthermore, ethnicity plays s a large part of the matching, not just DNA, Michelle explained. About 80 percent of the donors are Caucasian, which makes it horrendous to match marrow for other races -- and "so minorities are in high demand and are not required to pay the fee," Michelle said.
From the moment their friends learned of the family's plight, they jumped aboard to try and help.
In my next life, I’m planning to come back and have the Litton’s friends. As soon as their friends heard what was happening to the family, they mobilized pulling together a giant garage sale – raising $5,000 plus during last weekend.
That will be used to help run the upcoming bone marrow drives, one at Torrance High School Dec. 14 from 3 to 9 p.m. and the other Jan. 5 (Saturday) at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium from 11 to 3 p.m. (For further information, link to the GetSwabbed above).
Their friends helped post fliers every where and anywhere to get people to the bone marrow drives and continued to email me on a consistent basis – that a story should be posted on the Underdog Blog.
Everybody needs friends like that during a life-and-death struggle, but I’m sure it’s not just the parents that they are trying to help. Jillian, herself, is quite a character. I was shocked how much she could speak already – and that she definitely had her own mind-set.
When she wanted to read her Dr. Seus Cat in the Hat book alone – and Anna insisted on helping her – she pushed Anna away saying she wanted to read alone.
On what her parents were calling “a bad day” for Jillian, her spirit seemed tough and her drive constant, despite battling a cough. She watched Wizard of Oz (her favorite movie) in her crib with Anna and when she was asked what her favorite character was, she yelped out: “Toto!”
She jumped around reading books, climbing up on her mom and kissing her, riding her toy pony and then refusing to hug a leaving visitor – that would be me – at the end of the day.
She was tired and the nurses had come in-and-out poking her, checking her blood pressure and her temperature.
Her mom encouraged a hug – but she ignored that and clung onto her buddy friends, Toto, Lion, Dorothy, Tin Man and Scarecrow.
But just as I was leaving, I got blessed, Jillian flung herself on me and gave me a hard, deep hug – one that I never realized a tiny sprout could give.
That was the greatest Christmas gift of my life.


Shaana said...

Thank you for supporting our efforts to raise awareness about the Marrow for Jillian's Tomorrow Drives. That fiery little girl is worth every minute we spend transcending our roles as friends and becoming part of the Litton family...together there is strength, hope, and a yellow brick road to remission!

Shaana Berman

Nicole said...

My eyes can't help but well up when i read this story and see Jillian's beautiful smiling face. I am especially thankful for my families health but realize this could just as easily be us. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the Litton's. We will help get the message out, get swabbed and donate.

Matt&Michelle said...

Thank you for taking time with our family & writing this story. We truly are blessed to have such a wonderful circle of friends. From making us meals to planning & executing our other daughter's birthday party so she doesn't feel forgotten, we just couldn't be more loved. Complete strangers have reached out to us all across the South Bay...that goodness will be paid forward in innumerable ways, that we can promise. Everyone has a story. Every story has purpose. Ours is just one of many that highlights the beauty of humanity...thank you for sharing it with your readers. Merry Christmas.
Michelle & Matt Litton

Sandra Avila said...

You so eloquently captured the essence of the Litton family and their world. Thanks for your moving article.

I know that sweet hug from this beautiful little girl is a wonderful gift.

God bless you.

The Cresswells said...

Matt, Michelle, Anna, and Jillian,

The Cresswells love you very much. Madison just told me today that she wants to give Jillian her Nyquil Chest Rub to make her "cold" go away so she can come over and share toys. Jillian and Anna are such beautiful children inside and out and we know that there will be a match for little Jilly. I can't wait until next Christmas when we can gather around together and feel grateful for the blessings of Jilly being home with you. As you already know Matt and Michelle, if you need anything, call.....

Those that are reading this, please give a few moments and some check cells to get registered and save a child's life and a community's heart! :)


Kevin, Michelle, Madison, and Hannah

Kim McCarthy Loffredo said...

Thank you for caring enough to write about little Jillian. We are all fighting so hard for her, and the more support the better! Thank you.

Diane Flick said...

She has the most wonderful cheeks I've ever seen. That in itself would win me over, but good night! What a ball of life! What a great experience to be able to meet the family and write about them! Great story. I will keep them in my heart and spread the word about getting swabbed!

elle said...

Michelle, Matt, Anna, and Jillian
We are thinking of you! We love you !

Nick, El, Chloe, Andrew, and Mathew Griffin

Mike said...

The Litton family is a phenomenal bunch. I'm so glad Matt and Michelle have such great friends out there in California because they are two of the best friends a person could imagine. At the worst times in my life they were there for me; when I had lost almost everything, they remained and reminded me of what makes life truly rich. Without health, happiness, and the love of good people, everything else fades to gray. Jillian has happiness and so much love, but she needs our help to regain her health. And this world needs the laugh and smile of darling Jillian. Big sis Anna needs her playmate, and Matt and Michelle need the chance to keep nourishing another lovely human being. Please do what you can to help the Littons and other families struggling against leukemia.

Sarah said...

And the love just keeps spreading!

Thinking about you guys all the time!

Lots of love, hugs and donor matching thoughts!
Steve, Sarah and Sammy

Shargrand said...

Remember that when you help Jillian, you may also be helping thousands of other children who may need a bone marrow donor-let's all pitch in and get swabbed...this community has pulled together for this amazing family-let's help them lead the way to help Jilly and so many children and families who fins themselves in similar situations.

Sharon & Paul

cecilia said...

Jillian, her family, her story, and her friends continue to remind all of us of the preciousness of life, community and friendship--the connectedness of all of us!

Jannah said...

Spending time with Jillian shows you how very precious life is. This beautiful little girl is so full of life and energy (as a toddler should be) even though she has the power drugs of chemotherapy in her. It saddens me to see all the children in the hospital fighting this horrible disease. We can all help by just a swab of our cheek to enter the National Marrow Registry and possibly save another life. I don't know about anyone else but that to me is the greatest gift I could ever give and I am sure anyone fighting a nasty battle against cancer or other disease could receive. All the thoughts, prayers and positive energy to our little Jillian and her family and let's find that match for her.
Jannah Linneman

Heather said...

every story i read about little jillian leaves me in a mixture of tears, smiles, laughter...she's such an amazing girl! and she is so blessed to be surrounded by such a strong're all in my thoughts and prayers!