Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kristen Lopez

Just as a way of spreading the word and building support, concern and sympathy for her, her parent, Sydney and Caroline, her sisters, and the rest of her family, I reproduce below and provide a link to yesterday's Nation report on Kristen.

Published on: 3/14/2010.


KRISTEN LOPEZ used to be an active champion - a tennis champion.

Just over three months ago, this energetic 19-year-old could be found powering aces down the courts as she competed for her school, Delaware State University in the United States.

In Barbados' tennis circles, this former Ursuline Convent student was recognised as the warm-spirited, outgoing, gifted daughter of tennis instructor Sydney Lopez and his wife Caroline.

She often made her parents proud and her opponents shudder, as she won tournament after tournament, since she began playing competitive tennis at age of eight.

She has held an ITF world ranking and has represented Barbados at the Federation Cup level.

Upbeat spirit

Now, with a somewhat frail body, but upbeat spirit, Kristen lies on one of the 1 100 beds at Christiana Care Cancer Centre in Delaware, whiling away the time on her computer, chatting with friends on Skype, awaiting life-saving stem cell transplant treatment.

Her long hair is gone, some cut off by Kristen herself and donated to a charity for cancer sufferers, the rest either deliberately shaven or just lost to chemotherapy.

The Barbadian teenager was just beginning the second year of the tennis scholarship she had secured at Delaware State, had been playing tennis for her school and was preparing for the start of the tennis season when her life was dealt a severe blow.

Shock and disbelief

She had just begun weight training and running, when she began experiencing shortness of breath and her heart rate was up uncomfortably. This, coming after the recurring rash she had noticed on her hip not long before.

And it was with "utter shock and disbelief" that Caroline and Sydney Lopez heard the dreaded words via telephone, from a doctor who had examined their daughter in a Delaware hospital: "We haven't done the bone marrow biopsy, but I am pretty sure this is what it is."

The eventual confirmed diagnosis was an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukaemia.

In a flash, Caroline and Sidney flew from Barbados, arriving at their daughter's bedside at three o'clock in the morning.

The activity since then has been frenetic. A medical team led by four haematologists have been working around the clock on Kristen's case; she has already undergone one course of chemotherapy and is about to have a second massive dose.

Meanwhile, her 18-year-old sister Gabriella who is on a soccer scholarship in New Mexico has bravely stepped forward to provide the stem cells her sister so desperately needs.

Caroline explained: "The best donor for a stem-cell transplant is a sibling. There is only a 35 per cent chance that
a sibling will be a perfect match and Kristen is lucky to have her sister Gabriella qualify as a stem-cell donor."

The experience has created an awareness about the need for stem-cell donation by people of African origin. Caroline is white, Irish, Sidney is black Barbadian, and it was determined that the stem cells for their daughter's transplant had to be extracted from the black side of Kristen's family.

Caroline says there is a critical shortage of black stem cell donors.

"There has to be an awareness that within the black community, stem-cell donors are needed. It is a non-invasive process, merely a cheek-swab test, and in most cases through a blood donation from which the stem cells are extracted."

Meanwhile, the family is reeling under the weight of the medical bills for their daughter, which have already surpassed the US$200 000 mark and continue to climb, with the stem cell transplant yet to be done. When the cost of this and the ensuing hospitalisation and medical care are added, the anticipated bill will be astronomical.

However, the parents are drained, but not broken.

The knowledge that the Lopez family has done something for tennis in Barbados has led to the setting up of the Kristen Lopez Medical Fund Acct. No. 018288232001 at the Barbados National Bank. The Swift Code for those wishing to wire from overseas is: BNBABBBB.

Friends and well-wishers from all walks of life, learning about Kristen's plight have come to the assistance of the Lopez family in one way or another.

Church services are being held, prayers are being said, one child has baked and sold cup cakes to raise funds, there has been one major fund-raising event with others to follow, and in several other ways, people here and abroad are making some input towards the recovery and survival of Kristen.

Her mother, coping daily with the experience of a very sick child says, "When a mother has teenagers, she always fears the 2 a.m. knock from police to say there has been a car accident. But you never expect that phone call we got.

"It just happened so fast, it was such a shock. You have a young athelete, she was here for Christmas and we did not pick up anything was wrong."

While Sydney admits "it has already been financially draining", he tempers that strain with the realisation that "this is our child, and we will do whatever we have to do for her".

Anyone wishing to contribute may make deposits directly to the BNB account number, or contact any of the three trustees: Adrian Brancker (427-4349); Archie Cuke (435-4614); or David Sumpter (433-0227).

No comments: