- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The La Plata Volunteer Fire Department was bustling with activity last Saturday during a bone marrow drive set up in hopes of finding a donor for Adam Lumpkins, a 5-year-old King George, Va., boy who has been battling leukemia nearly his whole life.
This Saturday, the effort will move to the Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department where another bone marrow donor drive will be held. The boy’s parents are originally from the Mechanicsville area and have relatives serving with the fire department and rescue squad there.
Jamie Lumpkins, Adam’s mother, remembers being awakened by Adam’s screams at 4 in the morning in December 2008.
He was about 18 months old and “screaming for no apparent reason,” she said.
Jamie, a career paramedic with Charles County, and her husband, Chris, a professional firefighter at Fort Belvoir, are also parents of Christopher, now 9, and Raegan, now 8.
His parents thought Adam was probably just coming down with something. Jamie took him to the pediatrician who determined the boy, who was running a fever, probably had an ear infection.
When they weighed Adam, Jamie noticed a rash on his legs and with her paramedic experience, she knew Adam had a low red blood cell count.
On Christmas Eve 2008, Adam was diagnosed with pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
He started chemotherapy, but it wasn’t going to be that straightforward. There have been setbacks.
Adam came down with a respiratory problem, and chemotherapy had to be halted while he fought that. Later he had pneumonia and had to stop chemo again.
He had a bowel infection and had 6 inches of his bowel removed, again halting chemo. His gall bladder had to be removed and he was taken off chemotherapy.
Earlier this month, Adam complained of headaches and doctors found that the cancer had spread to his cerebral spinal fluid and the lining of his brain.
A bone marrow transplant is needed.
Siblings are the best bet, but neither Christopher or Raegan matched. No one in his immediate family was a match.
The Lumpkins’ friends and family who make up the group Praying for Adam launched bone marrow drives in La Plata and Mechanicsville.
“One in 560” can be a match, Jamie said.
The drives are being held to find a match for Adam, but information collected at the drives will go toward the national registry through www.bethematch.org.
“Jamie and Chris have spent their lives helping other people,” said Liz Caswell, one of the organizers of the events and the couple’s friend. “We are asking for the community that they help, help them during this tough time.”
During Saturday’s drive at the La Plata firehouse, 340 kits were collected.
Donors had to fill out a form and swab the inside of their cheeks. But even those who could not donate still found a way to support the family.
“It was definitely bigger than we expected,” Caswell said. “So many people came by to buy a T-shirt or [visit] the bake sale.”
Donors like Erin Zust and her husband, Bryan, of Bel Alton didn’t know the Lumpkinses personally but read about the drive on Facebook. As parents of a 7-year-old daughter, Brianna, they realized they are lucky to have a healthy child.
“We would want someone to do it for us,” said Erin Zust, adding that her mother-in-law died of leukemia and that was another reason the couple decided to join the registry. “It just seems like the right thing to do.”
Marie Clarke doesn’t know the Lumpkinses, but when she learned about the drive on Facebook, she dropped by to donate.
Caswell said the Lumpkinses carry on and try to stay strong for their kids — their fourth child is due in February.
“I’ve never heard them say, ‘Why me?’ They keep going and do what they have to do and stay positive,” Caswell said.
Chris Lumpkins said that the fight is “exhausting,” but Adam tries to keep his spirits up.
“He’s a happy child,” Chris said. “When he feels bad, he does his best to be happy. He’s so strong.”
When Adam was diagnosed, Chris’ first thought was that the couple would and could face it alone, but the support from friends and family and even strangers has been “very humbling.”
“You can say ‘thanks’ but it’s not enough,” he said.