April 17, 2012

Shopping for Shelly

I'd like to introduce you to a special person in my life, someone I've known for more than thirty years. Michele is my husband's oldest sister  -- her family affectionately calls her Shelly. We graduated from high school together; I was in her wedding almost 31 years ago.

As both an Air Force brat and an Air Force bride, Michele's life has been lived all around the country (plus two stints in Germany), but she and her family ultimately settled back where she started, in Middle Georgia. Here she has raised her two children, Apryl and Greg, and enjoyed her grandchildren. Michele and her husband, Tim Fetz, have been extremely active in their church. They work behind the scenes, serving quietly, except for times when Michele is able to share her song of worship.

Tim and Michele at NIH
Over the years, Michele has faced various maladies. She was eventually diagnosed with Crohn's disease and Lupus, but with no real help offered. Over the years, her condition has worsened and it became evident that there was more going on here. Referrals to Emory, then the Mayo Clinic, ultimately led to a referral to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, finding that a hereditary blood disorder was the root of the problem. NIH offered Michele the opportunity to participate in a lengthy clinical trial -- an extreme immune system makeover of sorts. After several months, Michele was released to return to Georgia and seemed to be improving. Unfortunately, after about two months home, it became clear that the treatment had not worked. A bone marrow transplant needed to reverse her pre-leukemia condition.

Michele and Jeff (2008)
It took a bit of time, but two potential donors were identified: Michele's brothers, Kevin and Jeff (my husband). The transplant team was amazed to learn that both brothers were 100% matches, increasing the odds of acceptance exponentially. Jeff was ultimately selected simply because it was logistically simpler for him to participate.

Because Michele's condition is considered critical, the transplant team has scheduled the process to begin as quickly as possible. Tim and Michele will report back to NIH at the end of April and are not expected to return home until sometime in September. Jeff will also report at the end of April for his physical exam and the first stage of the donor process. He returns to NIH in mid-May for the actual donation, which will be a non-surgical procedure. He'll receive a series of injections over five days to increase the number of blood-forming cells in his bloodstream. Immediately following the fifth injection, blood will be removed from one arm, cycled through a machine which removes the peripheral blood stem cells, then returned to his other arm.

Tim and Michele
Following this, Michele will begin a series of chemo and radiation treatments over several days. Then she'll receive the bone marrow transplant, a little at a time, over several more days. She'll be on anti-rejection drugs for about three weeks following the transplant. Her parents will travel up from Macon prior to the transplant to help care for her and for Tim in the following weeks. (You can follow Michele's progress on her CaringBridge page.)

Tim and Michele will ultimately be up at NIH for more than four months; Tim will be on unpaid leave for much of this time. His coworkers generously donate leave to cover most of their time away in the fall; Tim does not yet know how much will be covered this time. Thankfully, the Fisher House provides free lodging, but Tim and Michele will be responsible for their personal expenses, including most of their meals and the gas needed to make the 45+ minute commute to NIH.

Because of this, I'd like to help Tim and Michele with a fund raiser, and I hope you'll join me. Simply visit either of my online Willow House stores, Style for Home or Jewelry by Sara Blaine, place an order using Michele Fetz as your host, and I'll donate my entire commission from your order directly to Michele. Style for Home orders over $39.96 are still eligible for a customer special, and even e-outlet orders count! If you need help or prefer to order by phone, let me know.

I'd love for you to share this opportunity with your family and friends, too. If you have several folks who'd like to participate, I'll even set you up as host and let you earn host rewards. Contact me for details.

If you prefer not to shop but would still like to donate, let me know and I'll help you take care of that, too.

Above all, we would appreciate your prayers through this long process. There are scores of people involved in making this happen, from Michele's family to the Fisher House folks to the teams of professionals at NIH. But ultimately, we know that all of this rests in the Lord's hands.

Tim and Michele Fetz

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