NEW WASHINGTON - The Buckeye Central Local School District is stepping up for one 18-year-old student this holiday season.
DJ Kissell, a senior also attending Pioneer Career and Technology Center, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. He was diagnosed with type one diabetes in 2008, a seizure disorder in fall 2011 and most recently myelodysplastic syndrome. MDS is a group of conditions that occur when the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow are damaged, according to the American Cancer Society's website.
DJ loves to cook and is in the culinary arts program at Pioneer.
Since he was diagnosed with leukemia, from February 2011 to February 2013, DJ spent 182 days in the hospital, Monica said.
DJ and his mother, Monica Kissell, traveled to The University of Michigan Medical Center Friday for a bone marrow transplant.
Monica said the procedure went very well. They are going to have to spend about three months in Michigan for the transplants and chemotherapy, she said.
She said the bone marrow donor provided twice as much as they expected. The rest of the sample was frozen to be used later, she said.
Monica described DJ as any ordinary boy. He loves to play video games and loves to put together all types of puzzles and model cars.
The Buckeye Central school district has raised about $3,000 during fundraisers to help DJ with transportation and medical costs. Also, several staff members have purchased gas cards to help the family on their three-hour trips to and from the hospital in Michigan.
"With driving an old mini-van to and from Michigan, we are going through about 10 gallons of gas with $40 per trip," Monica said. "Just the gas alone is straining with what is coming up."
The school has been really great, Monica said.
"They have good communication when it comes to letting me know if DJ isn't feeling well, with missing so much schools, and with what homework that needs to get done," Monica said.
She said they have struggles like any other family and what other people see as struggles seem normal to them.
"For us, at any point we have to drop everything and spend multiple days in the hospital with DJ," Monica said. "There is always something else, something different that you have to just drop everything."
Saturday, the school has organized a 5K to raise funds for DJ and another local family that has gone through hardships.
The "Jingle Bell Run!" 5K is to take place in New Washington. Registration for the race begins at 4 p.m., with the race beginning at 5 p.m. The fee for the race is $20 and soup is to be served after the race. The race is to be run weather permitting. If there is a weather advisory the race will be canceled, but refreshments still are to be served.
For more information, call Sam Roberston at (419) 492-3226.
"I just want to send out thanks to everyone that has helped and is still helping," Monica said. "The support is amazing. There are so many people that care and don't even know our family."
Because the family won't be home for Christmas, Monica said they are holding off celebrating until they are able to be home.
"If you understand the meaning of Christmas, it is not about the day, it is about people you spend it with," she said.