Pastor May Get Marrow From Daughter

April 14, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

HAMPSTEAD — The nationwide search for a bone marrow donor to save the Rev. BertBenz's life has led back to his doorstep on Hi View Drive.

The donor could be his 12-year-old daughter, Lauren, who goes with him to Lexington, Ky., later this month for further testing.

While not a perfect match, Lauren is the best one doctors have been able to find, said Benz, who was diagnosed during a routine physical last August with chronic myelogenous leukemia.

Blood drives andbone marrow searches conducted in Carroll for Benz, the pastor of Faith Baptist Church, yielded no matches. Three potential donors found through the National Bone Marrow Registry were ruled out in further testing.

But Benz learned two weeks ago that the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky would be willing to transplant his daughter's marrow even though it isn't a perfect match.

Lauren admitted she's a little afraid of going under general anesthesia for the first time so that doctors can extract the marrow from her hip. But she said she also hopes she will be the one who saves her father's life.

"I don't know why, I just hope it's me," said Lauren, who callsher father her best friend.

Lauren remembers the fear she had when she first learned of her father's diagnosis. An uncle and grandmother also have battled cancer this year, which led Benz to get the complete physical last August.

"I don't want to be conceited, but I think I've become more mature, I guess you'd call it," Lauren said.

"Instead of bawling my eyes out, I just talk it out with friends, or with my dad or the counselor at school. I just let my feelings out instead of holding them inside," she said.

"My friend, Kattie Baker,she's been supporting me a lot," Lauren said of her classmate in thesixth-grade homeroom at North Carroll Middle School.

Benz said that if Lauren proves a compatible donor and remains willing, he will allow doctors to do the transplant in early June, rather than wait fora better match.

"I feel like my time is running out because my white (blood cell) count cannot be stabilized," Benz said.

If the disease should progress to its next stage, a transplant won't help, he said.

Lauren recalls the date -- Aug. 14, 1990 -- when she learnedher father had leukemia. They were camping in New Jersey when he went to a phone booth to call his doctor for the test results. He went back to the campsite to tell his daughters and wife, Linda.

Doctorstold him he had three to four years to live unless they could find abone marrow donor. Even with a transplant, his chances of survival are 25 percent to 50 percent, depending on how good a match the donor is and other factors.

In Lexington, Lauren will be counseled further about whether she wants to be the donor. While she is tested for compatibility, doctors there will test Benz to make sure his organs have not been too badly damaged by the chemotherapy, which would lessenchances of surviving a transplant even if Lauren is compatible.

If Lauren doesn't qualify, doctors will try the next best donors: Benz' other daughter, Shannon, 17, his parents, his sister, or his brother's children.

Lauren matches four of the six antigens tested for in the first rounds of compatibility checks. The other potential donors in the family match only three antigens.

Potential donors have been sought through several American Red Cross blood drives since last fall conducted in Carroll, Harford and Anne Arundel counties and his hometown of Tampa, Fla.

Just in case Lauren doesn't match her father in further testing, the Red Cross will screen for donors at its next Hampstead blood drive from 2 to 8 p.m. May 29 in the Fire Hall.

Anne Fiocco, of the Carroll district office of the Red Cross, saidshe had a blood drive planned anyway for that day in Hampstead. Blood donors may authorize tests on the samples for a possible bone marrow donation.

The Central Maryland Red Cross drives have added 4,000people to the National Bone Marrow Registry, said Linda Klein, spokeswoman for the chapter.

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