2009-10-21 / Front & Center

Dinner benefits family of teenaged leukemia patient

BY PHIL FOLEY STAFF REPORTER

Andrew Evard Andrew Evard IMLAY CITY — For anyone who’s ever had a teenage boy, complaints of headaches and tiredness can be a routine thing, but for one Imlay City family it was the beginning of a long nightmare.

In July Bob Evard decided to get one last checkup from his doctor, who was leaving town, and his oldest son, Andrew, who’d been complaining of headaches, asked to tag along. Evard, who works as a commodities manager for TI Automotive in Auburn Hills, said, “I told the boss I was going to be a little late. I had no idea it was going to be the start of a five, six day period (of going from one hospital to another).”

Evard’s family doctor got one look at Andrew and told his father to take him to the emergency room at Port Huron Hospital, where doctors found Andrew’s hemoglobin count was less than half of what it should be.

Evard said doctors in Port Huron put his son in an ambulance and sent him to Children’s Hospital in Detroit, where doctors found that “80 percent of his bone marrow was leukemic.”

Doctors at Children’s Hospital, said Evard, diagnosed Andrew with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Untreated ALL can be fatal in months or in as little as a few weeks. Because the cancerous white blood cells are sent to all parts of the body, Andrew’s doctors immediately started a battery of tests to see if it had spread from the bone marrow. “They haven’t found it anywhere else,” said Evard.

He added that after six weeks of chemotherapy Andrew’s percentage of leukemic bone marrow is below two percent.

ALL, according to materials from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, is the most common type of leukemia in children under age 15, most commonly striking children between the ages of 4 and 12. The survival rate for children is 85 percent, while the longterm disease-free survival rate for adults is about 50 percent.

Evard said that while doctors have told his family that Andrew is in a high-risk group for the disease and he’s lost 50 pounds since he was stricken, he and the rest of the family are keeping a positive attitude. “I don’t know how to think any other way,” said the elder Evard.

Evard said Andrew’s illness has taken its toll on the rest of his family. He said that while his company has great insurance, there’s been the strain of extra time off work. His wife, Marguerite, is a dental assistant at a small dental office and it’s hard for her to get away.

On top of that, there’s the added expense of going to Children’s Hospital, a 160- mile round trip from their Imlay City home. Evard said in addition to going to the hospital every Friday for chemotherapy, Andrew has been hospitalized 15 days, nine of them for one infection, since he was diagnosed in July.

Evard said instead of enjoying his junior year of high school, “hanging out with his friends, getting his driver’s license and going to the Imlay City High School football games,” Andrew has only been able to attend one day of school so far this year.

“We’re holding strong and fast to the idea that he’s going to get better,” said the teen’s father.

Throughout the family’s ordeal, said Evard, “we’ve been blessed with family and friends.” He said when he and Marguerite were too busy taking Andrew to and from the hospital to go school shopping, their friends made sure their children had school supplies.

Now those friends are banding together to help the Evards with the expenses that aren’t covered by insurance.

Cindy Adams, Margie Lamb and others are organizing an authentic Mexican dinner to help the Evards with Andrew’s ongoing medical care and other family needs.

Adams said the dinner will be from 2-4 p.m. Nov. 8 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 700 Maple Vista. She said there will be a 50/50 raffle along with the dinner.

People who won’t be able to attend the dinner but would like to make a donation, said Adams, should contact Lamb at 810-724- 4341 or at National City Bank in Imlay City.

She said checks should be made payable to “Andrew Evard” and sent to National City Bank or Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

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