With four teenagers in the house, weathering the whirlwind of activity can be like trying to put a tornado in a bottle. In the Raines household, on Forest Avenue, conditions change from Sunni to Stormi, Summer and Spring.
Summer Raines just celebrated her 15th birthday last week with her mother, Kristi Raines, dad, Larry Raines and 13-year-old triplet sisters, Sunni, Stormi and Spring.
There was a time that Summer's family didn't know if she would see a 15th birthday, or even a third. Summer was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Aug. 29, 1991, when she was just 2 1/2 years old.
Though Summer doesn't remember much of the two-year treatment period, her mother recently recalled that frightening time in her daughter's life.
"Two weeks after the triplets' first birthday, Summer developed some fever blisters on her lips and ran a low grade temp of 99 degree for three days. I'm a little over- protective," Kristi said, "so I took her to the pediatrician. Dr. Gloria Ho examined her and found petechiae, little, purplish, red, spots, in her mouth. That's a sign of a low platelet count. She did a blood test and said she'd tell us results as soon as possible."
The doctor called Kristi and Larry at home that night. Summer's white cell count was too high. Her platelet count was too low. And she had cells compatible with leukemia in her blood.
"We took Summer to Riley Hospital the next day," Kristi said. "After a bone marrow aspiration, on Aug. 29, 1991, it was confirmed that she had leukemia."
The Raines family was hit quickly with the terrifying news. In just two weeks their daughter had gone from what appeared to be a perfectly healthy, happy, active child to one who, even though she looked much the same, had a life-threatening disease.
Summer was started on a rigorous chemotherapy treatment plan consisting of various drugs that were given intravenously, orally, by subcutaneous injection and in the spinal fluid in her back.
A portacath was placed in her upper left chest area on Aug. 30, 1991. A portacath is a small intravenous catheter about 10 to 12 inches long. It's inserted into a large vein behind the clavicle. The catheter is connected to a port which has a diameter about the size of a quarter. The port is placed underneath the skin of the chest where it can be easily felt and accessed with a needle.
That's where the intravenous chemotherapy was given. The portacath was implanted so the frequent usage for drug administration and blood draws and the strength of the medicine would not "burn up" the veins in Summer's arms.
Even though Summer went into remission two weeks after her diagnosis, her treatment continued for two years. During that time her parents had to watch for and deal with complications of the treatment which included nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, hair loss, mouth sores and various dietary restrictions.
The chemotherapy suppressed Summer's immune system so she was susceptible to any contagious disease. One time Summer developed a temperature of 105 degrees for eight days.
"The problem is that when the white count is so low, they can't find the source of the infection," Kristi explained. "Not enough white cells congregate at the infected site to expose the infection. It took eight days to determine the infection was in her lungs. A CAT scan identified the infection was pneumonia and they did an open lung biopsy to do a culture and sensitivity."
Since even a common cold could develop into a life threatening illness, Kristi tried to keep Summer away from crowds and germs as much as possible. There were no trips to Wal-Mart or the grocery or a movie. But Summer had to make frequent trips to Riley Hospital for weekly chemotherapy and frequent tests and exams.
Tomorrow: Summer survives the disease but it changes their lives