By John Burton
Second-grader’s desire to help other kids gets assistance from RBC students
RED BANK – Despite a serious medical condition that could become more serious, 7-year-old Kasey Kennedy had a wish to help other seriously ill youngsters. With the help of her mother and students at Red Bank Catholic High School, Kasey is getting her wish.
Kasey, a second-grader at St. James School, 30 Peters Place, has had the help of her mother, Ashleigh Kennedy, a physics teacher at Red Bank Catholic High School, and some of her students to organize a carnival. Planned for noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11, the event will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions and their families.
Back in February 2010, Ashleigh and her husband got a call that any parent would dread. They were told by their daughter’s pediatrician to put some of Kasey’s things in a bag and to get to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick as quickly as possible. Kasey’s blood work showed some irregularities, her blood platelet count was “extremely, extremely low and the fear was she had leukemia,” Kennedy said.
Doctors were concerned Kasey had developed Henoch-Schonein Purpura (HSP), which can affect blood platelets – as well as organs in the body, such as the kidneys and skin – and could be a precursor to leukemia, Kennedy said.
Subsequently, Kasey would go through a series of hospital stays – Robert Wood Johnson, Jersey Shore University Center, in Neptune, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Baltimore, Md. – for a battery of tests and treatment. Between those sessions Kasey would develop symptoms like high fevers, nosebleeds, severe stomach pains and bruising, all of which would send the Kennedy family back to the hospital.
Kasey, a quiet and shy child, described those episodes as “very scary.”
“She did not show her pain” and put up a brave front, Kennedy said. When Kasey had to return to a hospital after an episode, nurses would try to soothe the young patient, explaining they were sorry but they would have to begin an intravenous line and it may hurt a little. Kasey, a veteran of such treatments, would tell the nurses calmly, “I know you have to stick me.” She knew what to expect and its effect on the nurses, according to her mom.
Eventually, doctors determined Kasey had the myelogenous or Philadelphia chromosome. It’s a trait that could indicate Kasey may at some point develop leukemia, with it most likely happening to patients between the ages 2 and 5, and again when they are in their 30s, Kennedy aid.
Things like surgery and hormonal changes could become triggers as well as anything that may impact on the patient’s immune system, Kennedy explained.
Kasey will need continued close monitoring, regular blood work and be mindful of colds and infections, she said.
While Kasey was spending time in the various hospitals, she made friends with other young patients and said if she had gotten a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, she would use that wish to help some of the other ill children.
“We were blessed we could take Kasey home,” Kennedy said. “Other families aren’t so lucky.”
They decided to hold the carnival and raise money to help those kids.
Kennedy’s students, “saw everything my family and I were going through. Everyone was offering, ‘What can we do?’”
Last year the RBC Making Wishes Come True Club, made up of the school’s students and with Kennedy as its moderator, held its first carnival, featuring games, activities, food vendors, music. They raised $4,600 for the foundation.
When a child gets sick, “it affects the whole family dynamic,” Kennedy said. But when the child receives his or her wish, “it sends a sort of spark through the family.”
It’s an impact that studies have shown to have a real positive therapeutic affect on the patients, Kennedy said.
Members of the club attended a Make-A-Wish council event in Monroe a while back with the young patients and families. “It was remarkable,” said RBC senior Marybeth Lynn, a club member. “You got to see people who’ve benefited from it.”
Along with raising money, Kennedy hopes the carnival will also raise awareness about the organization and encourage other efforts to assist it.
As for Kasey, she wants to grow up to be one of the nurses who help babies, she and her mom said.
The carnival will be held in St. James parking lot (Gold Street entrance) from noon to 4 p.m. on May 11.