Amanda Judice was doing what many college students like to do on semester break – enjoying a winter ski trip. Then, her world turned upside down, and not from a tumble on the slopes.
The 20-year-old product of Fatima and St. Thomas More, a Delta Delta Delta sorority member at LSU, learned that she was seriously ill.
“Amanda called us and said, ‘Mom, I’m so cold,’ ” said her mother, Kay Judice. “I told her she should be cold, but she said, ‘Nobody else is as cold as me.’ “
That was the first sign of something wrong. Then, when she returned for the spring semester, Amanda began taking frequent naps. Heading for class, she suddenly had to catch up to friends who previously needed to catch up to her.
What sounded like anemia was actually Severe Aplastic Anemia, a rare disease in which bone marrow is destroyed and stops producing blood cells. Now a patient at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Amanda was treated in February with a medication called ATG.
Recently, her doctors decided that Amanda wasn’t responding to the treatment and recommend that she go through another course of ATG. There is a 30 percent chance of success with the second treatment. If it is not successful, Judice will require a bone marrow transplant.
A marrow donor drive will be held for her on Saturday and Sunday at Fatima, because her siblings Emily, Thomas and Katherine and parents Kay and Kim are not matches. The test is a simple swab of the inside of the cheek which will be entered into the National Marrow Donor Registry. A matched donor would have a small amount of blood or bone marrow drawn at the donor’s own hospital requiring no overnight hospital stay and no general anesthesia.
“We think ATG is working,” Kay Judice said. “A transplant is the only permanent cure, but there are so many side effects. She has a weakened immune system, and it’s a balancing act to get her red blood cells and white blood cells right.”
A home nurse comes twice a week to the Judice household to draw samples from Amanda, who was supposed to begin summer school classes at LSU on Monday and is eager to move on with her life.
“Her attitude has been great,” Kay Judice said. “Doctors have told her, ‘You’re holding your own,’ but she said ‘I don’t want to hold my own; I want to get better.’ They have told her it can be cured, but that it will take time.
“Prayer has helped. It has really been heartwarming to see all the support people in town have given us.”
ATG is a form of chemotherapy that is given by IV over an 8-hour time span through a patient’s PICC line, which is a line she had inserted into the patient and goes directly to the heart. The patient receives all of their blood products through it also (to date. Amanda Judice has received 21 units of red blood cells and 14 platelet transfusions). White blood cells do not last long in the body and therefore are not transfused.
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