Erica and Dan DeMille of Greenbriar say they are overwhelmed by the outpouring of donations and support from the community to help their son Tyler, 1, who has a rare form of leukemia called Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML).
THE DISEASE affects one in 100 million children under the age of 5. With treatment, transplants and doctor costs, this has put a financial strain on the DeMilles.
Erica’s sorority sisters from George Mason University — Windy Jennings and Amy Bancroft — organized a fund-raiser and silent auction in honor of Tyler on Saturday, July 14 at Georgetown Day School. With the theme, “Las Vegas Casino Night & Silent Auction,” the event included blackjack, poker, roulette as well as a silent auction.
It netted $17,000, and all proceeds went to the Tyler DeMille Foundation and the DeMille family directly.
Jennings, a mother of two, wanted to help a fellow sister and best friend any way she could. “As a mother nobody could not read Erica’s story about Tyler and not help," she said. "The big concern was the finances, and I wanted to help so that they could sleep well and not have to dip into their 401K or take a second mortgage out on their house.”
A wedding planner by trade, Jennings said she could not have done it without the mobilization of her sorority sisters. Erica’s sister Ellen of Fairfax, who is a painter, donated a personalized painting service of $250.
DAN ATTENDED the fund-raiser and was overwhelmed by how much support they received. “I was awestruck at what I saw. I felt very grateful that these people would come together for us,” said Dan.
Erica’s sister along with her sorority sisters managed to get 24 donations for a silent auction, which included a day at a dog spa from Old Town Pet Resort; an anonymous donation for Nationals baseball tickets; a weekend get-a-way at The Boars Head Inn; a gift certificate for Great American Restaurants; and a donated Lladro figurine from Bailey Banks & Biddle.
Dan went around and thanked everyone personally for coming out to help support the event.
LIKE MOST 1-year-olds, Tyler crawls on his play mat, is introduced to new foods, and takes afternoon naps. That all changed on March 1, 2007, when Tyler’s parents discovered their son was diagnosed with JMML. His only hope for a cure was to have a bone marrow transplant.
Dan and Erica first noticed a bump on Tyler’s head in November of 2006 and took him to his pediatrician who told them not to worry but keep an eye on it. A second bump appeared again last February and the DeMilles took Tyler to see a dermatologist, although he reiterated the same thing. The DeMilles were told to look out for six or more “café–au-lait” birthmarks — small birthmarks that resemble coffee stains. Tyler suddenly had more spots and was taken for more testing. “He wasn’t presenting any signs in the beginning but then at the doctor’s ran tests and it showed a high count of white blood cells and confirmed it was leukemia,” said Erica.
THE DEMILLES then investigated what doctors and hospitals they could send Tyler to — to get the best treatment since most have not treated JMML. They chose Dr. Stella Davies who has treated 12 JMML patients, five of whom she has treated in the last five years. Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati was the best place for Tyler to be treated.
“Even though it was challenge to be away from home, we wanted to be here where it would be the best treatment,” said Erica. Tyler received his bone marrow transplant donated by an anonymous 22-year-old woman on July 2 at Children’s Hospital just one day before his first birthday.
“We are so grateful for this donation; without her on the list we wouldn’t be here,” said Erica. “She has given Tyler a second chance at life.”
While Tyler is at Children’s Hospital, his mother Erica, a database manager and ASP billing specialist for Georgetown Day School, has taken a leave from her job. Unfortunately Erica’s husband Dan, a technical analyst for Visa, has to stay at home to work but flies to Cincinnati to be with them every two weeks.
While Dan and Erica have been married for the past seven years they have never spent more than a night apart except until now. “The first week I was here it was really scary since I was by myself,” said Erica. “Now that I have been here for four weeks it has been more routine, the nurses are great. Everyone has been wonderful.”
While Tyler is on a lot of medication he is isolated and not permitted outside. He has a sanitary mat with a sanitary sheet and plays on it with his toys. “We try to keep him as normal as possible even though his activity is limited,” said Erica. He is not allowed to eat or drink and is fed through a tube.
“UP UNTIL the chemo he was progressing and crawling around; he was increasing his vocabulary,” said Dan. “He was a great healthy kid. It was a change we had to go through, and hopefully that will change in the next couple of weeks and we can get him to eat again.”
Once Tyler leaves the hospital, he and his mom will be at the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati for at least 100 days post discharge — depending on how well Tyler responds.
Erica and Dan said they are thankful for everyone’s support. “It is overwhelming to see the love and support that everyone has shown. Giving their time, energy, and resources to help us — I’m really grateful,” said Dan.
Tyler will not be officially out of the clear until his sixth birthday, and he hopefully will not relapse. “I hope that Tyler becomes a completely healthy boy. I know that he is not going to remember this,” said Dan. “We hope he comes out of this and that he is able to go on to a happy and successful life.”