Help Flynn Yoakum Beat Severe Aplastic Anemia

For: Flynn Yoakum
Portola, CA
Organizer: Linda Satchwell
Help Flynn Yoakum Beat Severe Aplastic Anemia (Flynn Yoakum)
$39,822
of $40,000 goal.
Raised by 254 donors
99% Complete

The Story

In late December, 2015, Annie Yoakum, mother to 4 ½ year old Flynn Yoakum, became increasingly concerned about seemingly spontaneous bruising that was appearing on his body.  By early January, 2016 she knew something was not right with Flynn.  On January 11, 2016 Annie’s concerns led her to contact her son’s doctor who in turn ordered some basic lab tests.  As soon as the lab test results came in, Flynn’s doctor advised his parents to take him immediately to the pediatric Emergency Room in nearby Reno, NV.  Flynn’s blood counts were dangerously low.   

Nine days after being transported by airplane to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital - Oakland, Flynn Bearett Yoakum was diagnosed with a rare condition - Aplastic Anemia.  A rare and serious condition,aplastic anemia can develop at any age—and Flynn’s case is severe.   Aplastic anemia (AA) is a disease in which the bone marrow fails to produce sufficient numbers of blood cells. Typically, patients have low blood counts across all three types of blood cells — red cells, white cells, and platelets.  Aplastic anemia may occur suddenly, or it can occur slowly and get worse over a long period of time. In many cases, doctors are never able to identify the cause of aplastic anemia.  Treatment for aplastic anemia may include medications, blood transfusions or a bone marrow transplant.   According to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Aplastic anemia is a rare disease that occurs in only one to two people per million each year. That’s 300 to 600 new cases across all age groups in the U.S.

Flynn’s family is currently undergoing DNA testing to determine whether either of his parents, or little brother, Coen (age 3), could present as a viable match for a bone marrow donation and transplant.  If the family isn’t a match, or the transplant unsuccessful, Flynn will begin an intensive treatment of heavy-duty immunosuppressive drug therapies.  Until either a bone marrow transplant is performed, or drug treatment is started, Flynn’s blood counts will have to be closely monitored, and transfusions are inevitable.   Untreated, severe aplastic anemia has a high risk of death. Treatment, by drugs or stem cell transplant, has a five-year survival rate of about 70%, with younger age associated with higher survival.   

The Yoakum family is no stranger to severe medical conditions. Flynn’s father, 35 year old Derek Yoakum, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2007 and has since undergone radiation, and chemotherapy.   In November 2013, he had 80% of the tumor surgically removed at USCF  Medical Center in San Francisco.  His tumor is currently stable and being monitored by neuro-oncologists at UCSF.  

Flynn’s family hopes to raise at least $40,000 to assist with the medical costs associated with his treatment for Aplastic Anemia.  Costs could soar far beyond this amount, but this is the goal they hope to meet at the moment.   

Flynn’s parents are already overwhelmed by the amount of love, support, and prayers they have received since this journey began.  They are incredibly grateful for any donation a person can spare, even if it is just $1.00.  

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on November 11, 2016

Posted on November 11, 2016

The Boy is HOME!!  
Derek and I were given the "all clear" to bring Flynn home on October 28th, 2016.  We are all still processing the months that have passed so quickly since his diagnosis in January.  We are also readjusting to all being under the same roof.  It's so wonderful and amazing to be a family unit again.  Flynn and Coen have grown so much this year, it is truly incredible.  

Flynn will continue to be followed closely by the BMT Team at CHO and we will have bi-monthly visits to check his blood counts, and vital organ functions.  So far he has been truly blessed and lucky in that his unrelated stem cell donor was so closely matched to him that he has not developed GVHD or Graft Versus Host Disease, where the donated cells identify Flynn's body as foreign and attack.  The first 100 days post-transplant pose the greatest risk for both GVHD and graft rejection.  Flynn's 100 days came and passed four days ago!  

We have to remain ever-vigilant in protecting him from exposure to infections of any kind.  He takes anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antibiotics daily, plus Tacrolimus which is a immuno-suppressant.  The immuno-suppressant, Tacrolimus, is designed to keep the remnants of his own immune system at bay, specifically the T-cells so that they don't attack the donor cells that have recolonized in his bones and developed a healthy blood producing system.  The BMT team periodically do a test to check the number of cells in his system that are his own DNA vs. the cells from the donor's DNA.  They want to see the majority of donor cells as that is an indicator that the stem cells have made a home in his bones and are producing blood.  

This entire experience has been a humbling and mind-blowing; so much so, that words can not begin to express the thoughts and feelings we have been exposed to.  Things that no one will ever understand until they have experienced it themselves.  Derek and I have felt a strange feeling of depression and sadness while we should be jumping for joy.  We finally were able to identify the feeling:  survivor's remorse.  The loss of Tom Slavik continues to be a raw wound.  There are families like ours who continue to struggle with cancer, GVHD, and other illnesses.  Families who's children have not been as lucky as ours, and our love is in a constant state of flux between happiness and heartache.  

But we continue to be greatful for the love and generosity of every single person in our lives.  We appreciate our family more than ever.  My parents, Jeanne and Kevin Tansey have put their lives on hold to take care of Coen whenever Derek and I were gone.  They love us and keep us focused on the positive.  I don't know that there will ever be a way to thank them for what they have done for us.  Thank you Mom, thank you Dad, thank you Auntie Megan for being here for us.  Every day, in every way.  

Flynnie is home!  And life is still beautiful.
As Always,
Annie, Derek, Flynn and Coen

Posted on October 11, 2016

Posted on October 11, 2016

Long Overdue Update!  
We are so close to Flynn's 100-day mark!   We are on day +75 after his transplant on 07/28/2016.  This update is posted with so much happiness, but at the same time is so bittersweet.  As many of you know, our dear family friend Thomas Slavik lost his battle with multiple myeloma on August 19, 2016.  He and Flynn had developed a very close bond after both being diagnosed with blood diseases in early January 2016.  Just five days after Tom slipped gracefully and peacefully away, Flynn was released from the hospital and into the BMT house.  We would like to express a deeply special thank you to everyone who has donated to Flynn's cause in memory of Tom.  It means more that words can express.  Thank you also to Gail Slavik for sharing Tom's wish.  

Flynn's blood counts continue to remain stable and everyone is just in a holding pattern until our 100-day limbo is over.  Derek has been the primary care giver for Flynn these past months, as I have tried to work as much as possible.  Derek has created a stable and loving environment at the BMT house, our home away from home.  Coen and I have been able to visit a few times and the boys are just crazy when they get together.  They love and miss each other so very much.  Flynn has also started Kindergarten via home-schooling provided by Oakland Unified School District.  His teacher has actually started to give him 1st grade level work.  

The days are passing quickly as our goal is finally so close at hand.  Flynn will get to come home just before the holiday season.  We will have so much to celebrate!  Despite being discharged home, Flynn will still have to be treated with kid gloves, he will be on immune-suppression drugs for his first year post-transplant so he will still be susceptible to infections, whether viral, bacterial or fungal.  We will continue to take every precaution against these things.  He will continue to have monthly check ups with the BMT team in Oakland.  

Thank you again to everyone for every single dollar, prayer, thought, and love that you have provided our family.  We wouldn't have done so well had it not been for your support.  Please check out Flynn's blog that a wonderful story teller from YouCaring wrote.  We had the pleasure of meeting Svet this summer and spending some time with her.  

SHOUT OUTS:  I can't forget to thank all of the BMT team, as well as staff on 5-South.  The nursing staff has blessed our lives in many ways.  
Thank you to RN's:
Gail, Alic, Katy, Tom, Ashley, Lisa, Kari, Ryan, Brooke, Brooklyn, and everyone I can't remember right now! 

Thank you to PCAs:  Ayan, Garron, Miyuki! 

Thank you to Docs:  Dr. Chris Cox, Dr. Alison Matsunaga, Dr. Mark Walters,

Thank you to PAs: Angela and Sherrie

Thank you to fellow 5-South Families:  Leah and Linday; Heidi and Chylee; you know how you've made a mark on our lives!  
You all will hold a special place in our hearts.  

Big Love, Annie, Derek, Flynn and Coen

Posted on July 25, 2016

Posted on July 25, 2016

Day Minus 2:  Well, we are here at Children's hospital again this time for the longhaul.  We arrived onJuly 20th, and started the preparatory regimine for Flynn's unrelated donor bone marrow transplant. This regimine is designed to A) create a home in his bones for the new marrow to settle and recolonize (so to speak); and B) to prevent his body as much as possible from reacting to and trying to reject the new cells.  As I am typing this, a great European colonists vs. Indiginous people analogy is forming in my mind, but I won't go there.  

So I named this update Day -2 because we are counting down to the transplant on day 0, and after that we count up. Day 100 is the goal for coming home, with a fully functioning immune and blood production system.  He will still be followed closely by his team of hematologists here in Oakland for at least a year post transplant but it will be less frequent trips to the bay.  
The biggest challenge Flynn will be faced with is trying to have fun and be a kid while here. His body's biggest challenge will be to remain neutral and not fight the new cells, but also the reverse may occur as well:  Graft versus host disease (GVHD) is our biggest worry.  This is when the donor cells recognize Flynn's body as foreign and begin to attack.  There are many steps being taken to prevent this. 

For now we are trooping forward and trying to keep Flynn's busy mind occupied while a  cellular war is waging in his little body.

Coen update:  he is staying with Nana Jeanne, Papa Kevin and Auntie Megan, being loved and having a blast. We sure miss our little hunk though!  

As always, thank you all for the loving thoughts, prayers and positive vibrations sent into the universe our behalf. 

Love, Annie and Derek

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