In October 2018, Ericha Williams noticed that her young daughter, Addyson, was sleeping an unusually large amount. She also began to notice unexplained bruises on her daughter’s body. After a few days of doctor’s appointments and blood work in search of an answer, they knew — Addyson had Severe Aplastic Anemia.
Addyson underwent two bone marrow transplants that failed. She suffered multiple line infections and dangerously low platelets.
In it all, as her parents and doctors tried to find a way forward, Addyson radiated joy. She delighted in the snacks and lemonade provided by HGF during Summer Camp on the BMTU, Ericha recalled with a smile. For Ericha, the week meant something so much more — camp brought her daughter exactly the types of experiences she’d longed for her to have.
“I cried every single day [of camp],” Ericha recalled. “Because this was the kind of stuff she should be getting to do, but she can’t.”
Tears came to Ericha’s eyes yet again when she told Carolyne Digel, HGF’s Program and Volunteer Coordinator, that Addyson would have to have a third transplant.
“Carolyne cried with me in the hospital one day when I told her Addyson had to have a third transplant,” said Ericha. “I can still see how she looked at me that day.”
Getting to know the HGF staff and volunteers didn’t just encourage Ericha personally or help her see that her daughter was seen and remembered. Connecting with HGF gave her a way to put into practice something she’d prayed for since Addyson became ill — that God would use the difficulties Addyson and her family faced for good. For Ericha, part of that good was encouraging fellow families in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit to accept the support His Grace Foundation offered to them.
In the case of families whose children need bone marrow transplants for reasons other than cancer, there’s often very little support from nonprofit organizations. By the time families arrive on the bone marrow transplant floor, they’ve often spent weeks or months on other hospital floors where they’ve seen cancer patients and families receive assistance while their own families fall between the cracks of organizations focused solely on cancer or other diseases. Ericha knew how that felt, and she knew that other families in the BMTU may be hesitant to believe that HGF really was there for them since no one else had been before.
“I wanted everyone to know how great HGF was!” Ericha said. She pulled a hallway bench near the door of Addyson’s room and created a “front porch” where she and other parents could talk and process their difficult days. There on that bench, Ericha would help other parents believe that they could receive physical, emotional, and financial support from His Grace Foundation just by virtue of being in that unit. She explained that the support may be something as small as a meal with a side that makes their child smile, just like Addyson would when the fruit cup HGF delivered contained uncut grapes — the fulfillment of her preschool heart’s desire. Or it may be something as big as temporary housing or financial assistance that covers a bill that’s gone unpaid due to a parent quitting their job to care for their sick child.
“It brought me so much hope to get to be part of bringing hope to other families,” Ericha said.
Speaking of hope, in September 2019, Addyson had a third transplant. This time, it was made up of her father’s stem cells. And this time, it was successful.