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Leukemia patient's family sponsors local blood drive

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 12:41 a.m.

Friends and neighbors wishing to show support for an area student who has leukemia will get their chance to help on Saturday.

A blood drive sponsored by the family of Matthew Pickering, 16, of Manor will take place at VFW Post 4843, 2125 Bailey Ave., Ford City, from9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pickering is a 10th-grade student at West Shamokin High School and plays trombone in the marching band. He has been in and out of hospitals since being diagnosed with the disease on Thanksgiving Day in 2011 — often needing blood transfusions during treatment.

The blood drive in his name was organized to replenish the supply at Central Blood Bank and help others in need.

“The blood products he received saved his life,” said his mother, Lori, a registered nurse at ACMH Hospital in Kittanning. “We thought this would be a great way to give back.”

Pickering spent months on home rest punctuated with lengthy hospital stays for treatment after his diagnosis. In September, shortly after he was declared in remission for the leukemia and started back to school, Matt suffered a setback when doctors discovered he had another form of cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome — a rare side effect of chemotherapy.

The setback hit Lori and her husband, Dave, a licensed practical nurse for Concordia Visiting Nurses, hard. “It was hard because we all thought he had it beat,” his mother said.

On Dec. 20, the teen received a stem cell transplant at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. While not out of the woods — Pickering will spend the next two weeks at Children's Hospital in recovery before a transfer to the Ronald McDonald House next door — the family has reason to be encouraged.

“He's cancer-free right now,” his mother said.

The blood drive to help others was organized by Lori's brother, Michael Bissell.

Central Blood Bank supplies are suffering because of drives that were canceled because of the extreme cold temperatures during the last month, said Caitlyn Doyle, CBB communications specialist in Pittsburgh.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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