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    Life slowly returns to normal for teen

    Palm Harbor's Sean Christian is on the road to recovery from his life-saving bone marrow transplant.

    By MEGAN SCOTT
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 9, 2003


    PALM HARBOR -- Thirteen-year-old Sean Christian says he doesn't miss anything about Boston, not even the snow, which he saw for the first time in his life.

    That's not surprising, considering that Sean didn't go to Boston for a vacation. Instead, he spent more than two months there receiving a life-saving bone marrow transplant and undergoing follow-up treatment.

    Sean and his mother returned home to Palm Harbor Feb. 1, and the seventh-grader will continue to see doctors here.

    "He's doing okay," said his mother, Linda Christian, 50. "We're keeping our fingers crossed."

    Sean was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome in August 2001. The disease, also known as pre-leukemia, is a life-threatening illness in which the bone marrow does not function properly.

    The homecoming was the latest progress for Sean since he underwent the transplant Dec. 7. He was discharged from the hospital Jan. 6, two days before his 13th birthday.

    After his discharge, Sean and his mother stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Boston, while he went back and forth to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for treatment.

    Christian said her son used to make snowballs on the 15-minute walk.

    "When the physician's assistant came in, Sean got him with some snowballs," she said. "Sean really enjoyed that. It was like doing something fun for a change."

    While Sean won't be making any snowballs in Palm Harbor, he is happy to be home. He is being kept in isolation while doctors wait for his immune system to strengthen.

    Sean said he has been spending his days reading books on woodworking. He finally got his Christmas wish: a saw. But the doctors are worried about the health effects of sawdust.

    He is also eating again: Hot Pockets, spaghetti and pizza from CiCi's. And he and his brother Danny, 11, are back to arguing.

    His doctor has said it could be a year until Sean returns to a normal life.

    For now, there are rules that must be followed.

    "He can go outside, but he can't be in any crowds," said Christian. "No one can come in the house except caregivers."

    That's okay though, says Christian. He's at home.

    The family is working to raise $100,000 for Sean's post-transplant expenses. So far, they have raised about $13,000.

    Things are slowly returning to normal for the family, said Christian.

    She is going back to work Monday. Family members will take turns watching Sean during the day. And her sister, Kate Coyle, who stayed with Danny, went back home to North Carolina, where she runs a catering business.

    "We're really just thrilled and so glad that he is home and safe," said Colleen Coyle. "Knowing that he still has a long ways to go given all that he's been through, he looked pretty good (when I saw him)."

    -- Megan Scott can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or mscott@sptimes.co .

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