Transplant doesn't save former Craig youth's life

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Robert Sherman, a one-time Ridgeview Elementary School student who last year became the focus of a local effort to raise funds for a bone marrow transplant, died Friday at Children's Hospital in Cincinnati. He was 10.

Sherman, who was identified as Robert Griggs in a story published last May about his family's fight to save his life, underwent two bone marrow transplants at Children's Hospital, one of the the few facilities performing transplants for Fanconi anemia patients.

Last April, while the boy's family was temporarily living in Craig, he fainted at Ridgeview Elementary. A short time later he was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a rare disorder that destroys bone marrow and leaves victims unable to produce new blood. Worldwide, only one to five people per million are afflicted with the disease, according to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, based in Eugene, Ore.

The Craig community rallied around the youth, raising $1,078 for the operation. Several businesses donated items that were raffled at $5 per ticket during the Memorial Day weekend. The family left for Cincinnati in June.

At the time, the family's health insurance carrier had been hesitant to cover the cost of the procedure. But the insurance company eventually agreed to cover all medical expenses, the boy's mother, Lillian Sherman, said Tuesday.

Robert received bone marrow infusions from an unrelated matching donor on Nov. 20, and again on Dec. 16, his mother said.

"He rejected both transplants which means the bone marrow didn't grow," Sherman said. "They gave him a regimen of radiation before that, which wiped out the rest of his own marrow, and he was infused with new stem cells."

Despite his fragile health, Robert always maintained a positive outlook, Sherman said.

"Robert loved life -- every single day," Sherman said Tuesday. "He was the happiest child I've ever had the privilege to know."

When the second transplant didn't take and Robert's conditioned worsened due to a fungal infection, he began to prepare for the inevitable. "On Jan. 11 he told me he was going to heaven soon and that he would be an angel and make sure that his brother would never get sick," Sherman said.

Robert is survived by his parents, James and Lillian Sherman, a sister, Kimberly Sherman, his 15-month-old brother Jerret Tespa and his paternal grandmother Coral McConnell of Craig.

He will be buried at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery on Massachussetts' Cape Cod. The family now resides in Massachussetts.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, 1801 Willamette St., Suite 200, Eugene, OR 97401.


Andy Smith can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at asmith@craigdailypress.com.

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