Olivia Eubank got permission from her doctor to remove the facemask for a few minutes Friday afternoon to have her picture taken.
The photos got snapped, then the mask was back on. It didn’t slow her down, though. She was as busy as any 5-year-old— checking out a stranger, picking at her dad, seeing what mom was talking about with a family friend.
Only the mask gives away that something is amiss— that she’s still in the recovery stage from a bone marrow transplant the family hopes resolves the rare medical condition she was born with, Fanconi anemia (FA).
That transplant took place last summer when mom and dad, Crystal and James Edward Eubank, took Olivia to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital after finding a match. It was part of a saga that began the year before when she went for her 3-year-old doctor’s check up.
A blood test revealed FA. Both mom and dad carry the genetic mutation, which meant Olivia had a one-in-four chance of having the disease.
It also meant months of blood work, doctor’s visits, trips to Cincinnati, the grueling chemotherapy and finally the bone marrow transplant.
That’s been followed by a regimen that has slowly allowed her immune system to begin to recover, thus the mask.
The stay at the hospital, the pain medications, the therapy, the step down to the Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati and finally back home the end of November have been followed by continuing doctor’s visits, blood tests, good days and bad, and work on gaining some weight— not to mention the normal growing up that comes with turning 5.
In the process, the Eubanks have leaned on their own families and the community— and what support they’ve gotten.
Most recently, the Buchanan Moose Lodge held a two-day fundraiser to help with the expenses.
That was the reason Olivia got permission to take off her mask for a few minutes— to get her picture taken during a check presentation from the Moose.
She held one end of the oversized check that totals $9,716.86.
The fundraiser to support “our little ones” was a lodge effort, but Dick Jackson and Melissa Hutchens were instrumental in pulling it off.
The early-April event included the women and men of the Moose Lodge holding a bake sale/Krispy Kreme doughnut sale on a Friday, selling 50/50 and raffle tickets with some very nice donated door prizes, and on a Saturday the lodge held a poker run that started in Roanoke, went to Eagle Rock and ended in Buchanan at the Moose Lodge. That was followed by a luncheon, horseshoe and corn hole tournaments and Randy Riddle as the DJ for the evening.
The Moose Lodge acknowledged the many businesses and individuals who made donations to the effort, including Greg Austin who won the 50/50 raffle and donated all the proceeds to the Eubank family.
Among the businesses that donated to the effort were Kroger, Fisher Auto Parts, Advance Auto Parts (Bedford and Roanoke), H&H Outdoors, Mt. Joy, SanMarCo., D&J Produce, BlueRidge Farm Center, Local 1023 Steel Workers Union, Snap On, New Reflections Hair Salon, Monroe Muffler, Harley-Davidson Chapter, Bank of Botetourt, Cracker Barrel and North Star Restaurant.
Many individuals donated time, food and other items, including Norma Broughman, Brenda and Donnie Barger, Robert and Jennifer Cupp, Ann Higgins, Sherry Driscoll, Forrest and Sandra Thrasher and Jimmy and Vicki Eubank.
In a statement, Jackson said the men and women of the Buchanan Moose Lodge have a mission to provide assistance for the community and individuals in need. “We may be considered a small town, but the people of Buchanan have big hearts,” Jackson said.
Olivia is not out of the woods yet.
She continues to be monitored to be sure her immune system doesn’t give way and that her blood counts continue to improve.
The bone marrow transplant is a Fanconi anemia patient’s only hope for living into their 30s and beyond, though.
According to the FA Research Fund Inc., the median lifespan for FA patients who don’t have successful transplants is 29 years.
While FA is considered a blood disease, it can affect other body systems. FA patients are extremely likely to develop a variety of cancers and at a much earlier age than the general population.
Olivia’s mother has been diligent over the past 18 months in keeping the community up to date on Olivia’s progress. Her numerous posts on CaringBridge.com tell the long story of Olivia’s diagnosis and all that has followed.
Things look good for Olivia. Within the next month or two she’ll be able to get out of the confinements that having a weakened immune system bring.
James Eubank said it was tough at times while they were in Cincinnati. Some families didn’t get to take their children home, he confided. “There were some rough weeks with some of the families out there with lots of complications.
“She’s a lot luckier than some of the other kids,” Eubank added. There were no real problems with the transplant, and he said although she’s small for her age (she’s close to 30 pounds now), she stays on the move.
She may occasionally even torment her 12-year-old brother Caleb at times.
He has endured it, though, and like the rest of the family is grateful they live in a caring and supportive community.