If she could do anything – anything at all – Rainee Arnold says her biggest wish would be to travel to Hawaii, put on a grass skirt, and lounge on the beach with a cold drink in hand.
“But her second wish is to go to Africa,” says mom, Stacy. “She told me, ‘Maybe if I can go to Africa I can take food to the people there.’ Rainee is always thinking of other people.”
It’s a mature, unselfish thought, especially for a 6-year-old girl, but then Rainee has been through much more than many children her age. Last September, she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, an autoimmune disease where her body creates antibodies that attack her bone marrow.
“It makes her blood counts fall, so she has become transfusion-dependent for blood and platelets,” says Dr. Karen Gauvain, hematology/oncology specialist in the John D. Bouhasin, MD Center for Children with Bleeding Disorders at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
Something was Wrong
Stacy Arnold says she and her husband, Scott, noticed that Rainee was getting a lot of bruises about a year and a half ago, and that she often looked pale and wasn’t hungry.
“I started doing a lot of research myself, and I thought it might have been leukemia or nutritional problems,” Stacy says. “That was when we decided to take her to the doctor.”
The pediatrician told them that Rainee had severe anemia, and immediately sent her to the Emergency Department for further testing.
Once she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, Rainee received immunosuppression treatment, which helped restore her white blood cells.
White blood cells fight infection in the body, but Rainee still needs regular transfusions of red blood cells, which deliver oxygen to her body, and platelets, which help form clots to stop bleeding. Now she comes to the Bob Costas Cancer Center at Glennon once a week for platelet transfusions, and once a month for red blood cell transfusions.
Ultimately, Rainee will need a bone marrow transplant to treat her illness, says Dr. Gauvain. Rainee’s sister, Adelle, 2, is not a match, so her family is looking to the National Marrow Donor Program for a bone marrow donor.
“Her mom is really her best advocate,” says Dr. Gauvain. “She’s smart, and she’s very in tune with Rainee’s illness and what is best for her.”
In addition to learning all she can about Rainee’s illness, Stacy wants Rainee to have all the fun opportunities little girls should experience. Together, they make time for drawing, swimming, and reading, and they tend a garden at home.
“Rainee can go through the garden and tell us what every plant is,” Stacy says. “She loves being outside, especially with her dog, Buddy, and her rabbit, Hoppy.”
To top it all off, Rainee is getting her wish, too. In October, the family will travel to Hawaii as her gift from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.