Heights teen struggles in hospital, needs bone marrow transplant

Arden Fast

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS – He is not easily defeated.

Even though his body turns on him and having a life filled with sports, socializing and attending school is seemingly out of reach, he still finds a reason to make others laugh. A reason to still make himself smile.

Meet Arden Fast, a 13-year-old Dearborn Heights resident diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a fast-growing cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. The white blood cell is also used to fight infections.

“We’re trying to get him healthier so he can get a transplant,” his mother Rae Fast, 40, said.

With acute lymphoblastic leukemia the bone marrow makes lots of unformed cells called ‘blasts’ that normally would develop into lymphocytes, which are responsible for immune responses, among other duties.

Fast has been in the Mott’s Children’s Hospital since November 2011 when his mother noticed he didn’t seem like himself. He relapsed from his leukemia treatment for the second time since January 2009.

“Because it was his second time they tend to hit the children with bigger doses (of treatment),” his mother said. She added: “there were days… for most part he pretty much led a normal life.”

Since the age of 3, Fast has been dealing with leukemia and on-and off-again chemotherapy treatments.

“I would expect we willl be in ICU (intensive care unit) for at least another month,” she said about her son.

Fast needs a bone marrow transplant and he has to be healthy enough to receive the marrow.

“Right now he can’t walk or lift his arm, he can’t do anything,” she said. “We have to build him back up so we can go home. This disease has not gotten the better of him.”

It seems that nothing can get the better of this affable teenager described by his parents as not only nice but smart and happy.

Diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, Fast is a sixth-grader at Webster Elementary school in Livonia when he was able-bodied.

He currently is not in school. From 2009 through 2011 he was not able to attend school. He then went back for the 2011-12 school year.

“He is a very good student from what his teachers told me,” his father Matthew Fast, 40, said of his son.

Mott Children’s Hospital register nurse Marcie Harless has known Arden Fast for only two months but she already has formed such a bond with him that she gets emotional when describing his conditions.

“You get very close to patient,” she said about the boy. “He is very special,” Harless added: “He is a kid that definitely loves life.”

Harless said Fast is also battling Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, an uncommon hematologic disorder that is a life-threatening immunodeficiency.

“He is very ill,” she said. “He is needing quite a bit of support while he battles this.”

Matthew Fast said the best way people can help is by registering on the bone marrow registry, www.bethematch.org/.

“The biggest thing is if we had more people that were registered in the bone marrow registry maybe we will find a better match for him,” he said.

“Any child that needs to have a bone marrow transplant has a better chance because there are a lot of people there.” He added that his number one goal is having people register.

“He is our only child,” he said. “I don’t know how to measure him. He’s fairly strong through the whole ordeal. He’s a fighter.”

For more information on donating to Arden Fast go to www.bethematchfoundation.org/site/TR?px=1757559&fr_id=1440&pg=personal

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com)