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Ride upcoming to benefit young leukemia patient

By Sherri Ellington A benefit ride for leukemia patient Jarhya Ussery will be held Saturday, May 18, just one week after Relay for Life. Jarhya, 3, had a stem cell transplant designed to replace her bone marrow and is receiving treatment at Egleston’s Children’s Hospital of Atlanta. Money raised at the benefit will help offset medical expenses. Jarhya is the daughter of Chartiaes Jones of Culloden and the granddaughter of Ira Jones Jr. and Betty Jones. She has a brother, Rogers Wooten III, 2. In October 2012 Jarhya had an ear infection but kept complaining of pain in her legs. She was treated and sent home. ’Something was still not right,’ said Jones. ‘I took her to her grandmother, who said Monroe County Hospital may help.’ On the way there, Jones got a call that Jarhya’s blood work had come in; she was asked to bring her daughter immediately to the Macon Medical Center. ’Her white blood count was really high,’ Jones said. ‘They did X-rays and ultrasounds. They drew blood all weekend then admitted her to the Children’s Hospital in Macon. They brought in an oncologist and sent blood work to different labs. I knew it was way more than a simple infection.’ Jones suspected her daughter had either leukemia or sickle cell anemia. ’I went home that night, packed my bags and slept in my own bed one more time,’ she said. ‘When I got back, the leukemia had been confirmed.’ Bone marrow testing and chemotherapy ‘started our official journey,’ she said. ‘We went home. The treatment was going fine. On day 22 of treatment they did a bone marrow and spinal test. Two days later they told us to come in the next day. I knew something was wrong so we packed up and went. She hadn’t gone into remission. The only option was to do a bone marrow transplant. It was quite devastating. I’d never had anything as severely wrong with my child.’ Jarhya’s cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, was very aggressive and was the same disease that killed her maternal greatuncle. They could pick Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta or a similar facility in Memphis, Tenn. ’Another blood test done during Thanksgiving week,’ she said, followed by more chemo at Egleston. ’Most of February was spent talking with the bone marrow transplant team and how the process would work. It was a lot of information to process.’ In the end, there was no bone marrow to match. Jarhya was selected to receive stem cells from an umbilical cord blood unit. ’In March she got a central line treatment, total body radiation and highdose chemo.’ Then Jarhya received the stem cells from the umbilical cord of an anonymous newborn. ’The cells are so new they’re not programmed to any one body. You have a better chance of accepting them because they have to learn how to function,’ said Jones. ‘Somebody’s child helped save my daughter’s life.’ In the wake of the transplant Jarhya had two infections and didn’t want to eat. ’All that cleared up and they’ve confirmed she has 100% donor cells. That’s just amazing.’ They’re weaning her off some of the medications. ’I try to keep it as normal as possible,’ she said. ‘She’s made great improvements but they’re not saying anything about discharging her soon.’ Jones remains on the bone marrow donor list and her mother hopes to educate others about the importance of donating through an organization called Jay’s Hope Project. ’People can sign up to be a donor,’ she said. ‘It costs nothing and gives you the opportunity to save some lives.’ The benefit ride starts on Roberta Dr. next to the sheriff’s office and includes a poker run, door prizes, a 50/50 drawing, live music, food and other activities. ’It’s been a blessing how our community comes together,’ said Jones. Registration begins at 9 a.m. with kickstands up at 11 a.m. The cost is $20 per rider and $10 per passenger, $10 extra if the passenger wants to take part in the poker run. For information call Felton Lewis at 770-550-3808; Jason Johnson, 770-468-4885; or Josh Moore, 706-741-4715.

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