Sat, May 5, 2001
Burk man hopes to defeat disease
Trish Choate, , Times Record News
A Burkburnett man
is about to embark on the riskiest phase of an experimental procedure he
hopes will allow him to walk again.
Donnis Wright will undergo treatment in the next few days at a San Antonio hospital to exterminate multiple sclerosis from his body. But the price of a chance to walk again doesn't come cheap. Family and friends are still struggling to raise $100,000.
Meanwhile, the 40-year-old man faces one of the biggest challenges of his life. Doctors at the Texas Transplant Institute will annihilate his immune system next week.
"And therein lies the danger," his father, Jack Wright of Burkburnett, said. "Once his immune system is destroyed, if he should contract what would just be the sniffles to you or me, just a little touch of cold, it could kill him."
Donnis will receive a transplant of stem cells -- the earliest form of blood cells on May 12. He began the procedures last week to cure him of MS, an often-disabling disease.
"He's in exceptional spirits," Jack said. "I'm sure part of that is a come on to cover up his anxiety. He's a little anxious about the procedure. We all are. As a matter of fact, I'm scared to death."
Gayle Wright, Donnis's mother, is with him in San Antonio.
"Donnis is doing exceptionally well so far," she said. "They said there would be various side effects, and he hasn't had any yet. When they start the chemotherapy, he may start having bad times."
Doctors have already injected a drug under his skin to stimulate stem-cell production. As the cells exploded out of his bone marrow, a machine harvested them from his blood. The machine kept healthy stem cells and weeded out those infected with the MS virus. Next, radiation and massive doses of chemotherapy will slay his immune system and destroy stem cells remaining in his body. Doctors will next dose Donnis with healthy stem cells, giving him a clean slate.
But two people died from infections out of about 30 who participated in the transplant study, spearheaded by the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Washington, Gayle said. If the transplant is successful, his body can begin healing itself.
Rehabilitation will help Donnis regain his physical abilities.
Back home in Burkburnett, 80 volunteers are raising money for him. Insurance will not pay for the experimental surgery.
So far, volunteers have come up with $8,000, said Don Morgan, chairman of Dollars for Donnis.
Jack said he has mortgaged his home -- once free and clear -- to come up with a $30,000 "down payment" the transplant institute requested.
"The fact is, we haven't paid anything yet," he said. "We tried to give them the money, and they said, no, they're still working on the insurance company. . . . When they want the other $70,000, we'll do something else. We could use a little help."
Morgan said things aren't going as well as Dollars for Donnis volunteers had hoped, but they're in it for the long haul.
Money wasn't the main worry on Jack's mind.
"We need monetary help, but more than that, we need a lot of prayers," he said. "This is even beyond the hand of man now. The good Lord's got to stand in, and we believe he will."
Contact Don Morgan at (940) 781-6964 or through e-mail at email@example.com to make a donation, buy a Dollars for Donnis T-shirt or volunteer.