Little Jackson Tucker has experienced a great deal in the short time since his birth. In just six months, he has been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and started treatments for the disease, and over the next few weeks he will continue to prepare for the biggest day of his life.
Suffering from a rare form of leukemia, the only hope for a cure was for Jackson to receive a bone marrow transplant. In June, the community rallied together for a donor drive, hoping to swab the mouth of someone who would be a perfect match for the tiny tyke.
“We had over 400 people come out that day,” Jackson’s mother, Heather, said. “We had 315 kits on hand that day and everyone of them was used.”
While a donor for Jackson wasn’t found at the drive, doctors have continued searching through the bone marrow bank for the youngster’s match. This isn’t easy, as Jackson is biracial, making an exact match more difficult to find, but not impossible.
As she was packing up and preparing to move to an apartment just down the street from UNC Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill, Heather explained that a core blood match had been found in the core blood bank registry. Jackson is scheduled to receive his transplant July 21 in Chapel Hill.
“The donor was a perfect match,” Heather shared. “They met six out of the six requirements. Core blood transplants have a very high rate of success.”
Jackson will be a busy fellow over the next few weeks as he prepares for his big day. On Monday, he will have a second central line put into his body, and beginning Tuesday, July 11, Jackson will receive heavy doses of chemotherapy daily until the transplant. This, Heather said, will kill off the bad cells and get his body ready for the good ones.
Jackson has been a miracle baby since conception. Heather and her husband, Reginald, tried to get pregnant for many years before conceiving Jackson. Just a few weeks after his birth, the baby became ill, sending him to the emergency room where they discovered something abnormal about his blood count. The young baby was immediately sent to Chapel Hill, where doctors arrived at the leukemia diagnosis.
“When I got the phone call that Jackson had leukemia cells, my world stopped,” Heather said just days before the donor drive, as she fought back tears. “Being able to have him home every day while he is doing his treatments is a blessing.”
For the last few months Jackson has been receiving a low dose of chemotherapy daily with oral medication. His last dose was July 6. This, Heather said, has allowed Jackson’s white blood cell count to stay at a good level and has him 100 percent cleared for the transplant.
“Looking at him, you would never know there is anything wrong,” Heather attested. “He has done really well with the chemotherapy with no side effects from the medicine.”
Jackson’s family, friends and supporters came together last week to celebrate a match being found and also as a way to wish the family well and offer prayers for them before they leave for Chapel Hill.
At a party at the Timberlake pool, decorated in a Mickey Mouse theme, Mickey, Minnie and other Disney characters — who happen to be Jackson’s favorite — visited with the child and his family, hoping to bring smiles to their faces as they anticipate the next four months.
Following the transplant, Jackson will be in the hospital for four to six weeks. Then he has to live within 30 minutes of the hospital. Heather said she and Jackson will be staying in an apartment until the first of November.
“This will be hard on the family, having to be away from each other,” Heather shared. “But, through all of this, we have grown closer as a family. I’ve learned that you can’t take any day for granted.”
The community, the mother added, has been a strong force behind Jackson.
“What has touched me the most is all the love and support the community has shown all of us,” Heather explained. “There have been people we don’t know praying for us and sending us their thoughts. Through this journey, Jackson has touched a lot of lives in many different ways.”
Many of the community members have a TeamJackson t-shirt or bracelet. Heather is asking that on July 21, the day of the transplant, everyone wear their shirts and bracelets to show love and support for Jackson.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.