December 3, 2004
The Arendt family is hoping a bone marrow donor of Greek ancestry can help save their son’s life.
Tony Arendt, 24, needs a bone marrow transplant after four rounds of chemotherapy have not eradicated his acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare and aggressive leukemia that is more easily treated in children. Without a matching donor for a transplant, doctors said Arendt will die.
"The problem is he’s a quarter Greek," said his mother, Vicki Arendt. "We need somebody with Greek ancestry."
Tony Arendt, an East Valley native who lives in Flagstaff, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia June 1. About 30 percent to 40 percent of patients with the condition, which affects a patient’s white blood cells, go into remission using chemotherapy alone. The rest either don’t make it through chemotherapy or require a bone marrow transplant, said Dr. Jeff Schriber, who runs the bone marrow transplant program at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, where Tony Arendt is being treated.
Siblings have a one in four chance of being a matching donor, but in Tony’s case, no matches were found. The nationwide bone marrow registry didn’t turn up a match, either. "We didn’t know it was going to be so hard to find a donor," Vicki Arendt said.
Schriber said there is a better chance of finding a match from someone with Greek ancestry.
By holding a bone marrow donor drive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Phoenix, the Arendt family is hoping to attract people with Greek ancestry. But Vicki Arendt said she is encouraging as many people from as many different racial backgrounds as possible.
"You never know where a bone marrow (transplant) is going to come from," she said.
Tissue typing to join the National Marrow Donor Program — which is available to people ages 18 to 60 and involves a 10-minute blood draw — is free for minorities and costs $65 for Caucasian, including Greeks. The first 100 volunteers with Greek ancestry, however, are free.
Chemotherapy is keeping Tony Arendt alive. Previous chemotherapy rounds put him in remission for 19 days, but he relapsed, making the disease tougher to cure, Schriber said.
"When it returns, the only hope to treat people is with a bone marrow transplant," he said. "This guy really has no realistic chance of remaining alive other than a bone marrow transplant."
Her son is ready to fight for his life, Vicki Arendt said.
"At this point, I’m not sure how much longer he can hold out. Almost four weeks ago, they told me there’s nothing else they can do (and) he has two weeks to live," she said. "He feels like garbage, but he’s alive. He’s ready to fight."
For more information about the bone marrow donor drive Sunday for Tony Arendt at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 1973 E. Maryland Ave., Phoenix, call (602) 239-4412.