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Boy Organizes Blood, Bone Marrow Drive for Sister's Fight Against Leukemia

A young Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner is organizing a blood and bone marrow registry drive inspired by his sister's fight against leukemia Saturday across from Ozona Pig.

Boy Scout and Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner Luke Longen is organizing a dedication blood and bone marrow registry drive for his sister Jenna, who is diagnosed with leukemia.
Boy Scout and Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner Luke Longen is organizing a dedication blood and bone marrow registry drive for his sister Jenna, who is diagnosed with leukemia.
When most Boy Scouts wait until their senior year of high school to do their Eagle Scout project, Luke Longen is knocking his out before finishing eighth grade. 

The 13-year-old never intended to start this early, but plans changed when his older sister was handed a leukemia diagnosis.

"When Jenna got diagnosed, I realized how important it is," Luke said while sitting with his family Monday in their eat-in kitchen. 

Jenna, a nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital, had to relinquish her newfound young adult independence and move out of her first apartment in July, back into her parents' Ozona home, where brother Luke gets a front row seat to her fight against cancer.

"It's a lot," Luke said, trying to put thoughts about his sister's diagnosis into words.

The young Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner is organizing a blood and bone marrow registry drive Saturday in Ozona. He'll be set up at a table across the street from Ozona Pig, where the community is putting on a larger benefit for his sister Jenna Longen.

The blood drive buses will be parked outside the Post Office. A bone marrow registry table will be nearby.

His sister Jenna, 26, can't produce heathy blood, so she has been in an out of Moffitt Cancer Center to receive blood regularly. For a long time, the possibility of a bone marrow transplant was also on the radar," she explained while seated nearby on a stool.

She wore a fashionable scarf over her head to cover the ravages of her chemotherapy treatments.

"The stuff I learned in nursing school doesn't compare to what I've learned in the past couple of months," Jenna said. "It's put me in my patients' shoes."

She had thought her persistent fatigue and dizziness was just weariness from working the night shift. But when a case of strep throat knocked her out for a week, she began to investigate. After months of tests and one misdiagnosis, doctors told her she would need to undergo chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia, a rare blood cancer typically diagnosed in people over 60.

The experience has Luke thinking a lot about blood and bone marrow.

"People wouldn't survive without it," Luke said.

And determining whether a person has a bone marrow match is as easy and painless as taking a cheek swab, he explained. The donor's DNA is then added to a database that can link them to matches internationally. His sister has a match in another country, he said.

Luke hopes his dedication drive project for Jenna will not just increase the number of donors in the international registry, but educate people about bone marrow and blood needs as well. 

Between meetings, fundraising, organizing and event day, he and other volunteers expects to dedicate between 150 to 200 hours to the project.

"I want to have a direct impact," he said. "Knowing you could save a life doing this ... that is a huge impact."

Want to Go?

Luke Longen's Eagle Scout Project for Boy Scout Troop 26, a dedication bone marrow registry and blood drive for sister Jenna, is across from a larger community benefit at Ozona Pig.

  • When: Saturday, Oct. 5 from noon to 5 p.m.
  • Where: 310 Orange St., Palm Harbor
  • Why Go? Donors will receive a free T-shirt and wellness checkup (including blood pressure, temperature, iron count and cholesterol screening).
After getting swabbed and pricked for a good cause, walk across Orange Street on Saturday to the "Slaying Leukemia" benefit for Jenna and Ozona Pig anniversary party.

  • When: Saturday, Oct. 5 from noon to 5 p.m.
  • Where: Ozona Pig, 311 Orange St., Palm Harbor
  • Why Go? Enjoy food specials, buy a $5 "Slaying Leukemia Team Jenna" bracelet, and enter the silent auction for tons of great items (including gift certificates to area restaurants, fishing and golf equipment, gift baskets, concealed weapons classes, automotive services and more). 
Cari Batstone McLaughlin October 02, 2013 at 12:36 PM
I'm in the national bone marrow registry! Best of luck!

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