Neighbors, strangers aid child fighting leukemia

Bone marrow transplant from 4-year-old brother scheduled for April 30

April 16, 1999|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Kim Brittain has cried plenty over the past few months, but yesterday she wept tears of joy.

That's because doctors have scheduled a bone marrow transplant for her 2-year-old son, Austin, after neighbors and strangers rallied to raise $56,000 to pay for the operation. Brittain tearfully thanked everyone who sent money, cards and letters.

"The response was overwhelming, more than we thought," Brittain said yesterday from her Norrisville home in Harford County. "I just want to let everyone know that Austin is doing well, that he is strong, and that we are so grateful."

Brittain said support for her youngest son, who has an adult form of leukemia and Down syndrome, picked up in recent weeks after The Sun reported that community fund-raisers were being held to pay for the transplant. Insurance covered 80 percent of the procedure's cost, the family had depleted its savings and Brittain has been unable to work since her son became ill.

Brittain said she has received scores of calls, letters and cards of support for Austin and his 4-year- old brother, Cody, who will be the marrow donor.

A 6-year old emptied his piggy bank to send $1. An elderly woman wrote to say she was sending her last $5 in hopes it would help.

Brittain said she often was moved to tears and laughter by some of the sentiments expressed in the notes.

"I read every single one of them, and if the person sent their phone number, I called to say, `Thank you,' " Brittain said. "Everyone has been so wonderful with their time and contributions."

Now that enough money has been raised to pay for the operation, Austin is scheduled to receive the transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital on April 30, and his mother said she is hopeful that he will be cured.

His mother said the family is working on a scrapbook for Austin so he will remember the kindness of neighbors and strangers.

"Every single card and letter is going in that book," Brittain said.

Pub Date: 4/16/99

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