Fundraiser to benefit 8-year-old with leukemia

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
CHINA GROVE — Savannah Odom, 8, went out to eat, attended church and played outside with her cousins over the weekend.
Although it sounds like a typical weekend for most of her peers, it was a rare treat for Savannah, who was diagnosed with leukemia in February.
With her chemotherapy wreaking havoc on her immune system, Savannah spends most of her time quarantined at home or at Presbyterian Hemby Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, where she undergoes treatment and tests numerous times each week.
“It’s been a struggle to do everything. You can’t live a normal life,” said her mother, Jayme Bonds.
But it’s all become normal to Savannah.
This is her second bout with leukemia. She was diagnosed the first time at age three.
“She would just collapse out in the driveway and stay there. We thought she was being a typical toddler trying to get our attention, but it turns out the muscles in her legs were hurting,” Bonds said. “She would just sit in the corner and cry. She just wasn’t herself.”
After blood tests eventually revealed leukemia was the culprit, Savannah’s treatment spanned about two and a half years.
When her first round of chemo ended, Savannah’s thick dirty blonde hair grew back past her shoulders, and she returned to school at Bostian Elementary.
But about a year later, she was sick again.
“She was wasn’t feeling good and coughing so we thought she had pneumonia,” Bonds said. “Then we found out her blood work was not normal.”
This time, Savannah has a different form of leukemia that requires a more aggressive chemotherapy treatment.
Instead of taking a pill, her chemo is now in the form of a series of 30 shots administered in a week’s time.
After the treatment, Bonds said Savannah is oftentimes bedridden with stomachaches and headaches as well as pain from the injections in her legs.
“The hardest part is when Savannah doesn’t feel good and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to get better,” Bond said. “Those are the bad times. As long as Savannah is feeling better, we’re all happy.”
Bonds and Savannah’s father, Anthony Odom, do their best to make the bad times better by making hospital stays a bit more fun with arts and crafts.
“I pass the time by painting her finger and toenails,” Bonds said. “We’re both there with her during the day and we take turns staying with her overnight.”
On Savannah’s good days she likes to play outside with her 2-year-old sister, Katelynn Bonds, on the swings and trampoline.
“When it gets warm she’ll be a swimming bug,” Bonds said. “She has horses at her dad’s house and she loves to ride them when she’s well.”
Savannah said she misses her horse Star, named for it’s midnight black coat and white star patch, the most when she’s stuck inside.
Bonds said at times the uncertainty about Savannah’s health can take a toll.
“From one minute to the next you don’t know what to expect,” she said. “She might be fine and then come down with a fever and end up at the hospital.”
Although Savannah’s medical costs are covered by Medicaid, Bonds said it gets expensive driving back and forth to Charlotte several times a week.
That’s why family member Melissa Gulledge put together a fundraiser called Savannah’s Drive.
The event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12 at Bostian Elementary, will feature a “kid zone” that includes a bounce house, craft area, face painting, monster trucks and more.
There will also be a silent auction and raffles for a variety of prizes donated by local businesses. Food including hotdogs and sweets will be on sale.
Gulledge said adults can donate blood and have their mouth swabbed to be entered into the Be the Match national bone marrow registry.
“All cancer patients need blood, Savannah has had so many transfusions,” she said.
Although Savannah no longer needs bone marrow, Bonds said it’s a good idea to get added the registry in case someone else like her needs it.
Bonds said she doesn’t know how to say thank you enough to Gulledge and all the people who have chipped in to host the fundraiser.
“You just don’t think somebody would do something like that,” she said. “I think it’s good to see the support we have out there, whether it’s people praying, thinking about us or spreading the word about leukemia.”
Savannah’s health will be the determining factor in whether or not she can attend Saturday’s fundraiser.
“I really hope we’ll be able to be there because I want Savannah to see who all is behind her, that it’s not just me, dad, stepdad and family,” Bonds said. “There are a lot of people out there who care about her.”
Find out more about the fundraiser by visiting Contact Gulledge at savannahsdrive@hotmail. com
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.