Junction City Community Blood Drive to Honor Local 3-year-old Fighting Leukemia

April 12, 2010

Media Contact:Jennifer L. Keller - (316) 268-0853 / Cell: (316) 558-2428
E-Contact Info:  kellerje@usa.redcross.org  – Twitter: @JenniferLKeller          


Junction City Community Blood Driveto Honor Local 3-year-old Fighting Leukemia

Wichita, Kan.—April 12, 2010—The American Red Cross will host a special community blood drive April 20 and 21, in honor of Elise Ballard (pictured at right), the 3-year-old daughter of Tony and Kelly Ballard of Junction City.

Elise, like many other hospital patients across Kansas, needs blood to keep her in the fight against cancer. Elise is currently undergoing her fourth round of chemotherapy at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. So far, Elise has received many units of whole blood and platelets (a blood component).

This blood drive was the idea of a co-worker of Tony’s at the C.L. Hoover Opera House, and it will help raise awareness about the importance of becoming a blood donor.

The Junction City Community Blood Drive will be held Tuesday, April 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday, April 21 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Junction City Municipal Building, 700 N. Jefferson.

Elise’s Story:
Last fall, a typical day for Elise would have included playing with her little sister Abby, going to the her local library and doing lots of other fun stuff with her mom, Kelly. Her dad Tony said, “She was a very sociable 3-year-old.”

Everything changed in early November. The Ballards took their daughter to the local emergency room twice because she started to have slurred speech and jittery movements.

“Doctors thought it was a neurological problem,” said Tony. “Two weeks later, Elise was admitted to Children’s Mercy for tests.” On Nov. 5, 2009, the Ballards got the news, no parent wants to hear. Elise was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. But with Elise, the cancer was in her spinal fluid, not bone marrow.

This meant several things including the fact that Elise was very sick, and life for the Ballards would never be the same. 

To fight the cancer, doctors recommended Elise undergo five rounds of chemotherapy. Each round would last at least 30 days. But, in their experience, some rounds have lasted closer to two months.Elise and her family were at the mercy of her white cell counts. When the counts went down, Elise was more prone to infections, when they went up, it meant her body was fighting the cancer and she could return home soon.

According to her dad Tony, Elise just started her fourth round of chemo at Children’s Mercy. During the past five months of treatments, she has only spent a total of 28 days at the family’s home in Junction City.

A New Home – Children’s Mercy Hospital:
The saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, when life gave her cancer, Elise started making a lot of new friends in the form of patients and staff at Children’s Mercy.

“There were several young kids ages 18 months, 2, 8 and 12 who all started going through cancer treatments at Mercy about the same time as Elise,” said Tony. “These children became her new friends.” Along with the child life specialists at the hospital who make it their job to help kids be kids in the face of cancer.

“She has really become quite an artist,” said Tony. “This is a new thing that she is really enjoying while she’s at the hospital.” He added that she also loves music therapy, both listening and playing.

In addition to new friends, Elise and her mom Kelly have become much closer. Kelly’s parents, who live in Kansas City, have spent much of the time Elise has been in the hospital taking care of Elise’s 18-month-old sister Abby. “Friends and family have helped us tremendously,” added Tony. “My employer has also been very supportive of my family situation.”

The Future:
From the beginning, the doctors told the Ballards “there are no guarantees,” but that hasn’t stopped them from hoping for the best and looking forward to the day they can bring their cancer-free daughter home to Junction City and get back to a normal life.

“Prior to this, I never would have thought that people needed blood outside of an emergency situation.” Platelets and blood have been a big part of Elise’s treatment,” said Tony. “I have never given blood, but now I will try to donate because I know what a difference it can make. I hope others will participate in the Junction City Community Blood Drive in Elise’s honor!”

How to Donate Blood:
Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.orgto make an appointment today. Walk-ins are also welcome at this drive. All blood types are needed to ensure the Red Cross maintains an adequate blood supply. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Donors must be in general good health, weigh at least 110 pounds and be at least 17 years old (16 in Kansas with completed Parental Consent Form). New height and weight restrictions apply to donors younger than 19. Visit redcrossblood.orgto learn more.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation’s blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The American Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission.