GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The rooms and halls of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital hold not only West Michigan residents, but also people who travel to receive treatment on Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile.
Alex McCready, from the Soo in the Upper Peninsula, was one of those kids. The now 21-year-old spent months during his teenage years on the 9th floor, the pediatric hematology-oncology floor. The people he met there not only saved his life, they also set his life on a path of saving others.
McCready is now a senior studying human biology at Michigan State University with a job as a nurse tech on the ninth floor of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
“About the end of my (high school) freshman year basketball season, my mom started to look at me and she said, ‘You’re pale, you’re taking naps after school. … I think something’s up,'” McCready said.
McCready and his mom headed to his doctor where he had his blood drawn for the first time.
It would be the first of many.
“We went in to draw blood at 6 a.m. At 4 o’clock after he was off he called and he said, ‘Get to Helen DeVos right now. It’s pretty serious,'” McCready remembers.
McCready was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. A port, more blood tests and four rounds of chemo followed.
His family found themselves considered the halls of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital like a second home. That’s something pediatric oncology resource team works hard to do: make sure patients and their families have everything they need.
McCready eventually went into remission and the family returned to the U.P. About a year later, they got some bad news while following up with a doctor in Traverse City.
The doctor told him to go to Grand Rapids, “just to be safe.”
“Your heart skips a beat,” McCready said. “When we got down here and they said bone marrow transplant was the best way to go, it was … humbling.”
“The leukemia cells were detectable again, which usually means with that type of leukemia that you really need a bone marrow transplant,” explained Dr. Ulrich Duffner, who specializes in pediatric blood and bone marrow transplants. “A transplant is a quite intensive procedure we only recommend it when we think that this is a really clear recommendation.”
The search began for a bone marrow donor. McCready matched with a 41-year-old German mother, a woman who’d put her name in the registry because her father had leukemia.
It was a true gift of life.
“I make plans these days knowing that they can change any minute,” McCready said.
“Whatever I end up doing, it’ll be at a hospital, I’ll be taking care of people and I’m going to enjoy every day of it, I’m going to smile,” he said. “I know I wouldn’t be where I’m at without Grand Rapids, without all the people here, without all the people in the Soo, without the people on the nine floor who’ve helped me through all of this.”