Source: Sherman Publications

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Freshman recovering from bone marrow transplant

by Andrew Moser

February 09, 2011

The transition from middle school to high school can be tough.

Between new classes, teachers, buildings and friends, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and think this could be the longest four years ever.

Oxford High School freshman Caitlyn Ulinski, a 14-year-old school of choice student from Romeo, saw her freshman year end only two weeks into school after finding out she needed a bone marrow transplant.

According to Caitlyn's mother Maria, doctors discovered that Caitlyn had Severe Aplastic Amenia after a routine visit to the doctor to check on a rash. "They told me to take her immediately to the emergency room, which I did," her mother said.

Severe Aplastic Amenia occurs when a body does not make enough red blood cells, white bloods cell and platelets because the bone marrow's stem cells are damaged.

Upon arriving at the emergency room, doctor's informed Caitlyn and her mother that Caitlyn's blood count was dangerously low and she needed blood and platelets right away and "a transplant in order to survive," Mrs. Ulinski said.

Fortunately for Caitlyn, she didn't have to wait long to find a bone marrow donor because her sister Elizabeth was a perfect match.

Caitlyn had the bone marrow transplant on Oct. 26, 2010 at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. She came home three weeks later. "It's amazing what can be done," her mother said. "Her sister's bone marrow is working and she is in recovery mode at home now." She added the family is taking Caitlyn's recovery day-by-day.

When asked how it was going, Maria responded by saying "so far, so good."

However, due to her immune system being wiped out by the ordeal, instead of attending OHS, Caitlyn has spent most of her freshman year at home recovering.

"The way they explained it to me is that it is like a newborn baby. Everything is gone; it's like you're wiped clean, so she has no ability to fight infections," her mother said.

Doctors told Caitlyn recovery could take up to six months. After that, it is a "case-by-case basis," her mother said.

"They see how you are doing and look at all these different parameters to see what kind of infection fighting powers you have recovered, and they make decisions based on that," she added.

If everything goes well, Caitlyn could be back to school next year, just in time to begin off-season workouts with her teammates in the girls soccer program.

Varsity girls soccer head coach Larry Ferris first noticed her at kick-around in August. He called her a "very good and very dedicated soccer player."

Caitlyn is not down in the dumps about being at home and not in school and on the soccer fields.

According to her mom, she is trying to come up with ways of promoting bone marrow donation and helping other people who might not be so lucky to get a perfect match from a sibling.

"She wants to promote awareness that there are people out there that are looking for donors, and maybe we could get people signed up for bone marrow transplants," her mother said.

She also displayed that spirit when talking with Ferris about the upcoming season. Ferris said he emailed her to tell her that as soon as she was healthy, she would have a spot on the varsity squad.

According to Ferris, she emailed him back, saying she wanted to earn her way on. "I thought that was a very classy thing for a girl to do, who is sick right now and going through some heavy stuff as a 14-year-old," Ferris said. "It just tells you what kind of person she is."