Help a kid with leukemia… and help many, many more

By Phil Plait | April 27, 2010 12:00 pm

Heather Steingruebl is a BABloggee. She contacted me and told me some chilling news: her daughter Elise was recently diagnosed with leukemia. She’s being treated, and I know we all hope things go well for her.

But in the meantime, this makes Elise susceptible to many preventable diseases. We need people to get vaccinated! As Heather says,

Vaccinate. Elise and thousands of kids like her are counting on not dying from things like measles and whooping cough while they fight cancer. Unless it’s a specific health risk to you or your child, just vaccinate. Please.

She also implores people to get on the bone marrow donation registry. Search around online for information on how to do this. I plan on doing this myself.

My heart goes out to her and her family, as it does to anyone affected by this awful illness. I’m going to find out what booster shots I need, because I take this issue very seriously. I hope you do too.


Comments (28)

  1. Vaccination Dalek
  2. My best wishes for a speedy recovery to Ms. Steingruebl and her daughter. This is another good example of the importance of herd immunity and why people should listen to facts, science and reason, rather than fear-mongering, lies and distortion.

    And, before anyone posts about how bad vaccines are, please read the info at the site Larian posted or at

  3. Stephan

    Many people, even educated people, don’t realize that vaccination is not so much about protecting themselves, but to protect everybody else.

    I’ve friends who were told by their MD (!) that they don’t need to get vaccinated against X because X is only dangerous for kids and the elderly. And they followed that advice!

    What we need is an ignorance vaccine.

  4. Ld Elon

    Tasteless. propaganda alert!

  5. Ld Elon

    Nice todd, lol.

  6. mikerattlesnake

    Tasteless? I guess the mother of the girl with cancer should just shut up to appease the loony conspiracy theorists.

  7. So I see an advert for the PBS Frontline episode for the “Vaccine War” featuring a picture of “Typhoid” McCarthy and “Thinks with his genitalia” Carey… I hope that episode is grounded in reality, and isn’t another platform for them to lie (and instead shows just how wrong their ilk is).

  8. @Larian

    Frontline tends to be pretty regularly reality-based. The format of the program is to start with the “controversial” stance, then follow up with rational discussion of why that stance is in error. I don’t watch it all that often, but one of the more memorable ones I saw was from 1993, “Prisoners of Silence”, discussing the fraud known as Facilitated Communication. Highly recommended.

  9. I went to the PBS page and was not diapointed in the shrill screeching of the anti-vax loons… They are there in force. :(

  10. Leon

    My kids are 2 and 4. We’ve kept them up with their vaccination schedule.

  11. jcm

    My parents did the right thing by let me get vaccinated.

  12. Actually there is ad for the frontline show on this website.

  13. The bone marrow transplant registry is at http:/ Please send for your registry kit today and save a life!

  14. Trebuchet

    The problem with “start with the ‘controversial’ stance, then follow up with rational discussion of why that stance is in error” is that a significant portion of the audience will watch only the opening, get bored, and go off and watch American Idol or something. The only part of the show they’ll remember is the lies at the beginning. And it will have more authority with them because they saw it on PBS!

  15. Gary

    And if I might add another suggestion: be a platelet donor. Leukemia patients who undergo marrow transplants need platelets and lots of ’em. Platelets don’t keep well so the need is always there.

    A lot of people don’t know that you can donate platelets without donating whole blood. The process is called apheresis and many large donation centers can do it.

  16. Old Rockin' Dave

    Let me add my two cents and urge everyone who is eligible to donate blood at every opportunity. I speak after twenty years as a physician assistant who worked in oncology, immunology and surgery and as someone whose life has been twice saved by transfusions.
    Most people don’t realize that whole blood is rarely transfused, but is fractionated into its components. One person might receive your red blood cells, another your platelets, someone else your blood plasma and yet another your immunoglobulins. And if your blood can not be used for transfusions some part of it may be used in medical research. That’s an awful lot of good from a few minutes in the recliner!

  17. Beryl

    I registered as a marrow donor a few years ago. Unless there is a drive where someone is paying the typing fees, if you do it, you may have to pay your own genetic typing fee. I did this happily. It was tax deductible. Typing is done with a mouth swabbing, and most marrow donation is now done by filtering marrow cells from the blood–not the giant needle to the hip that used to be standard practice. If you’re healthy and between (I think) 17 & 55, no excuses not to do it.

  18. Heather (Elise's mom)

    Blood donation is also really, really big, and Old Rockin’ Dave says it perfectly. We couldn’t even start treatment until my daughter had received transfusions of whole blood and platelets. And, because of the way Leukemia works, blood donations from family are not acceptable. (Plus, exhausted, stressed-out people make lousy donors anyway.) I had no idea the kindness of strangers was ~so~ important.

    Before my daughter fell ill, the public health implications of vaccination, blood donation and marrow donor registry were important to me but largely academic. Public health becomes personal health pretty quickly when your child has cancer. Thank you to all of you who vaccinate, donate and register.

  19. MadScientist

    I hope little Elise has got a type that’s now curable. An aunt missed out on clinical trials by a few months – she had a type which is now regularly treated with very good success rates; in that case the treatment involves taking a marrow sample and culturing good cells – radiation and chemotherapy are then used to kill off all marrow cells and the cultured cells put in. It’s a self-marrow transplant so the tissue compatibility is excellent. A horrible series of operations, but the patients have a very good chance of surviving and having a normal life afterwards.

  20. Evil Timmy

    They’ll send you a typing kit (sterile cotton swabs) and instructions, along with a postage-paid envelope, for free.

  21. Gaiainc

    I signed up with the National Bone Marrow Registry (or something like that) back in med school. I was asked to be a potential match, but being pregnant, they disqualified me. I’m back and waiting to be asked to n
    donate again. I can’t give blood given too much interesting travel per the Red Cross. I’m up on my shots and my little guy is now current on his. His father is my next challenge. Wish me luck.

  22. Messier Tidy Upper

    Heather Steingruebl is a BABloggee. She contacted me and told me some chilling news: her daughter Elise was recently diagnosed with leukemia. She’s being treated, and I know we all hope things go well for her.

    Yes indeed. I know it probably doesn’t count for much but you have my sympathies and best wishes. Hope Elise recovers well and soon.

    I also agree everyone who can is well advised get vaccinated.

  23. As a ALL survivor, my heart goes out to the little girl.

    I echo the call for vaccination, and for bone marrow typing, and I would add to that, storage of umbilical chords. It was the availability of chord blood that enabled my stem cell transplant which (fingers crossed) has cured me of my leukaemia.

  24. Old Rockin' Dave

    My wife has asked me to put in a word from her. She is an RN in one of the premier bone-marrow and stem-cell transplant units in the world, and she just wants me to remind everyone that she sees lives saved by marrow transplants every day, most of those the lives of children.
    I am no longer eligible to donate blood or bone-marrow, but I still urge everyone out there who is to give blood and get on the marrow-donor registry. You will have the thanks of many, including me and my wife.

  25. Allen

    My thoughts go out to Elise and her family. I can’t say that I have any personal experience with cancer in either myself or my family, but I certainly can sympathize with those affected.

    I’m looking forward to hearing good news in the coming months!

  26. I registered. Anything I can do to help. I wish I wasn’t white and could help more, though.

  27. My four year daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia ALL in April as well. I would like to echo the platelet donations. Hannah has needed quite a few of them. She would not be here today if it weren’t for the people who take the time to donate.


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