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.