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Woog's World: A 'little-known' story about a most-precious gift: Life

Published 7:19 am, Friday, August 22, 2014

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  • Anna Sicotte, left, with Ashley McCamant, the nurse whose bone-marrow donation helped to cure the little girl's leukemia. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News
    Anna Sicotte, left, with Ashley McCamant, the nurse whose bone-marrow donation helped to cure the little girl's leukemia. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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One of the great things about "Woog's World" is the opportunity to tell interesting, little-known tales about unheralded Westporters. I have become pretty adept at scouting out intriguing prospects.

But today's column comes from a reader. Dana McCreesh provided the idea, the background material and most of the words. Dana -- and Kim Sicotte, the subject of the piece -- epitomize the meaning of community and caring.

Kim Sicotte is a longtime and much loved "head 4s" teacher at Westport's A Child Place nursery school. She also runs the summer camp program, and sits on the board of the school. Kim is responsible for making so many of our town's (now teen) children who they are today. Every Westport mom who meets her adores her, says Dana, adding, "I haven't met a kinder soul."

Kim -- who is single -- dotes on her niece, Anna Sicotte. But when Anna was 20 months old, she was diagnosed with T-Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a dangerous blood disease. Doctors determined that the best option for her survival would be a bone marrow transplant.

On July 29, 2008 -- two months after her diagnosis -- Anna went into remission. The search for a marrow donor began. Her parents, Tom and Cindy, were tested, but were not a match. They have no other children, so the long process involving the National Bone Marrow Registry was initiated. A month later, Anna's parents learned she had 300 possible matches. Medical personnel began narrowing the possibilities to the closest match. By Sept. 11, they had their perfect match.

Ashley McCamant lives in Houston. Motivated by two friends with leukemia who had been saved by bone marrow transplants, she enrolled in the National Bone Marrow registry when she was in nursing school a number of years earlier.

In July 2008, Ashley was thrilled to get a call (despite just arriving home after a 12-hour shift). She was told she was one of 300 people who were a possible match for a young patient. She enthusiastically agreed to continue testing. Finally, Ashley was told that she was the perfect match. If she was willing, a baby girl with leukemia would receive her bone marrow. With no hesitation, Ashley agreed to donate.

All she knew of her recipient was her age, gender and diagnosis. So Ashley and her family began to affectionately refer to her as "Baby Girl."

Though nervous about the procedure, Ashley reminded herself that any risk to herself paled in comparison to the life of "Baby Girl." Fortunately, things went very smoothly. The procedure took an hour, and her pain was managed well.

"The best phrase I can come up with to describe the experience is `a minor inconvenience,' " Ashley says. "But even that seems too strong. It was a tiny interruption in my life, a little blip."

But thousands of miles away in Boston, Anna's life was going less well. She had to undergo intense chemotherapy and radiation to prepare for transplant. The transplant -- when it finally took place -- was successful. But Anna spent the entire next year in isolation. No one could visit in the home, and she could not go out.

Around the time Anna was removed from isolation, Tom and Cindy were asked if they would like to meet their daughter's bone marrow donor. Of course, they said. Without a doubt, they wanted to meet the person who saved their little girl's life.

Another year passed without further word. But then they got another call from Boston, once again asking if they wanted to meet the donor. This time, they were given all the information they needed to contact Ashley.

One evening -- right after Anna's soccer practice -- the Sicotte family met Ashley, the beautiful young nurse whose marrow saved their daughter. Later, Kim -- Anna's aunt -- met the donor, too. For all of them, Tom says, there was a feeling of "instant love, like when your child is born." He added, "Ashley is so humble."

Although Tom lives in Connecticut and Ashley is in Houston, they have decided to run the upcoming Chevron Houston Marathon. They'll do it to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, through Team In Training. They have formed "Team Anna/Tash" (Tash is Ashley's nickname), and will run proudly in honor of Anna, the child who -- thanks to Ashley's very generous gift -- is now living a healthy life, free of cancer.

(Interested in donating to Team Anna/Tash? Go to http://pages.teamintraining.org/txg/houston15/TeamAnnaTashnhx)

Kim Sicotte's birthday is this month. You'd think that a "head 4s" nursery school teacher would spent it somewhere relaxing -- at a beach, maybe, or having drinks with friends.

Kim is spending it with Ashley. She is so grateful to Ashley McCamant that she can.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his "Woog's World" appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is www.danwoog06880.