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Stories Added - September 2010
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Crockett mayor declares Alyssa Michelle Coad Day
Houston County Courier

By Sharron Randall
Staff Writer

Crockett Mayor Wayne Mask declared Wednesday, Sept. 8, as Alyssa Michelle Coad Day. Mask signed the declaration during a noonday ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 2, at the Crockett City Hall. Coad, 9, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) on June 24, 2006 at the age of 4. After undergoing two and one-half years of chemotherapy treatment, plus two years without a relapse, the fourth grade student will celebrate her “cure” date on Wednesday, Sept. 8. “This is closure for us,” her mother said. Alyssa Coad was born Aug. 26, 2001 in Palestine to David and Bianca Coad. She is the sister to Conner McKinnon, a sixth grader, and the great-great granddaughter of Hattie Long of Crockett. She is now a healthy, straight A student. Her hobbies include riding her Shetland pony, Rocky, swimming, playing video games, and taking lessons on the piano and recorder. “She loves music,” her mother said. Shortly before her fifth birthday, Coad had a fever of 103 degrees for eight or nine days and she complained of leg pain. Her pediatrician said it was just a “virus” and sent her worried parents home with “nothing to worry about.” Within three days, the sick child “wouldn’t” or “couldn’t” walk. The family returned to Palestine and Coad’s mother refused to be appeased. She was “sleep deprived” and “worried sick.” She demanded a x-ray and refused to drive home to Crockett until the radiologist read the results. The doctors found “nothing abnormal,” and the frustrated parents returned home with their sick little girl. That night, Coad’s mother said she awakened in a “cold sweat.” By 10 a.m. the next morning the family arrived at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) in Houston. By 6 p.m. they had an answer. Their baby daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), or cancer of the white blood cells characterized by excess lymphoblasts. Malignant, immature white blood cells continuously multiply and are overproduced in the bone marrow. ALL causes damage and death by crowding out normal cells in the bone marrow, and by spreading (metastasizing) to other organs. ALL is most common in childhood with a peak incidence at 2-5 years of age. The overall cure rate in children is about 80 percent. Acute refers to the relatively short time course of the disease (being fatal in as little as a few weeks if left untreated). Coad's mother said that the doctors at TCH “drew blood.” Laboratory tests which might have shown abnormalities: blood count tests, renal function tests, electrolyte tests or liver enzyme tests were not used until Houston doctors ordered them. Doctors at Texas Children’s told Coad's parents if they had waited too much longer, their daughter would have died. They said the child had suffered “excruciating” pain and was immediately put on morphine drip. Coad was hospitalized for nine days and had nine blood transfusions. She had lost one-third of her blood volume. The human body normally produces 150-450 platelets—she had 17; a body’s normal level of hemoglobin is between 14-16—hers was 4. Coad’s mother said, “It was scary. She almost ran out of blood.” For the first 30 days, Coad’s mother said, the treatment was “harsh,” but her daughter went into remission within 30 days. She lost her hair twice, but it has grown back thick, blond and curly. In kindergarten, she received homebound instruction but has attended classes since then. Chemotherapy is standard treatment, part of the research protocol, for a period of two and one-half years. The medicine is inserted intravenously two to three times a week, then once a month, then maintenance and observation. On Sept. 8, 2008 Coad completed her chemotherapy regimen. When two years without a relapse passes, her cure will become official. Coad will have regular checkups, but instead of weekly or monthly trips to Houston, she will make quarterly visits to the doctor. On Oct. 13, she will report to TCH for blood tests and a post echocardiogram, which will determine if the chemotherapy treatment caused any damage to her heart. Her mother said, “It’s just routine.” The First Baptist Church in Crockett took up a special offering every week, collected the funds, and made them available to the family. Other churches and organizations in the community generously donated time and assistance. “We had so much help,” she said. “The whole community rallied and helped us by keeping us in their thoughts and prayers.” Telephone calling cards were donated and different people hosted blood drives. Stewart Blood Center did a credit transfer to Gulf Coast Blood Center to replenish the blood that Coad had required during her hospitalization and subsequent chemotherapy and rehabilitation. The Michelle Lynn Holsey Foundation also assisted, and the family has taken part in the Relay for Life since 2007. Coad’s mother said, “I know people in the community would like to know that their prayers were answered. It’s closure for them too.”


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