Fallon leukemia patient clinging to life
FALLON, Nev. (AP) – Family members are maintaining a 24-hour watch on a 10-year-old Fallon leukemia patient, who remains in a coma at a Southern California hospital.
Distraught family and friends expect Adam Jernee to become the first child to die of the leukemia that has struck 14 children in this farming and military town 60 miles east of Reno.
The boy has been unconscious at an Orange County, Calif., hospital since radiation therapy damaged his lungs beyond repair, said his father, Richard Jernee.
”I think the inevitable’s coming and I’m having a real tough time,” the father told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
”He’s made it a lot further than a lot of people would in his condition because he is stubborn. I kind of admire him. He’s my hero and he’s a lot of people’s hero right now.”
For some families with the sick children, news of the boy’s condition has intensified months of growing impatience with a state probe into the cancer cluster.
”The frustration is very high because we feel that there shouldn’t even be the number 14, let alone this happening with (Adam),” said Brenda Gross, whose 5-year-old son is responding well to chemotherapy. ”This should have been found and stopped a long time ago.”
Since 1997, 14 children who lived in the Fallon area for varying lengths of time have been diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common form of the blood cancer.
Many of their families met at a Fallon church on Friday with out-of-state plaintiff’s attorneys and three Northern Nevada doctors who say the illnesses resulted from environmental contamination.
One of the doctors, Alan Levin of Incline Village, said his best guess is that jet fuel spills around the Fallon Naval Air Station are to blame.
Base officials have denied the allegation.
State and federal researchers expect to conduct tests of potential air, water and soil contamination in coming weeks in Fallon.
But Richard Jernee remains convinced that authorities aren’t doing enough.
”I don’t have any faith in those people any more,” he said. ”These (investigations) go on forever … How many kids have to die to get to the truth?”
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