Healthy 32-year-old Diagnosed with Rare Blood Syndrome   

Healthy 32-year-old Diagnosed with Rare Blood Syndrome

Dave Ferguson standing, embracing a loved one and smiling.

November 20, 2023

David, a 32 year-old resident of Englewood, NJ, was out on his usual jog in a nearby park in September 2021, but this time was different. "I stopped to take a break and couldn't catch my breath," he says. David couldn't catch his breath even after returning to his car and driving home. His parents advised him to go to the emergency department just to be on the safe side.

“We went to the local hospital, and I was put into a room where they ran many tests,” David says. “The hematologist came in and said my blood counts were all low. I told him that there must be a mistake and he started going through my information, verifying my name, date of birth, asking if he had the correct person. I had just had a physical 7 months prior, and everything was fine and perfect then.”

The Discoveryof Myelodysplastic Syndrome

David had to spend the night in the hospital. The next day, the hematologist came to check on him and ordered another blood test. The results revealed his levels had not improved, and a bone marrow biopsy would be needed.

David had his first bone marrow biopsy on October 5, 2021. A few days later, he received word that nothing serious was found/indicated in his bone marrow, but a few days after that, he received another phone call stating that his findings were inconclusive and that he needed to have a second bone marrow biopsy.

“I went back and did another bone marrow biopsy,” David says. “I got a call a few days later. This time, they couldn’t read the results and they ended up referring me to a hospital in New York City.”

Doctors at the New York City hospital diagnosed Dave with MDS, myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood malignancy where there aren't enough healthy blood cells. They advised him that a bone marrow transplant would be the best option for him.

“I had no clue what that was; I had never heard of any of this before,” David says. “I was going to go to the doctor in NYC, but my insurance would only cover a doctor in New Jersey. That’s when I found John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center.”

Comprehensive TreatmentPlanfor MDS

At John Theurer Cancer Center, the team—led by hematologist/oncologist James McCloskey, M.D.—he devised a treatment plan that started with chemotherapy. His first chemotherapy session began November 29, 2021. “They gave me the choice of either an IV or injections for my chemotherapy. I chose injections because it was faster & I didn’t want to be hooked up to an IV for an hour”. 

“As I was getting ready to leave after my first chemo session, I developed a slight fever,” David says. “The nurse taking my temperature asked me if I had the heat on in the car and or had been drinking something hot. She told me to wait a little bit, drink something cold and use an ice pack to see if it lowered my temperature a bit before I could go home.”

After an hour, his temperature was still high. With dangerously low blood counts and a fever that would not go away, he was sent to the emergency room and ended up being admitted to the hospital at Hackensack University Medicial Center.

“Dr. McCloskey said I needed to be fever-free for 48 hours before I could go home,” David says. Five days after he was admitted, he was finally able to go home and resume his chemotherapy treatments for seven days every month.

On February 14, 2022, after almost three months of chemotherapy, David received a call from his transplant doctor. A bone marrow donor had been found. “I was so elated. I was so happy. I was waiting for this for what felt like forever,” David says. Finally, the procedure to perform his surgery was initiated.

David says his transplant surgeon, Michele Donato, M.D., told him exactly what would happen before, during, and after his transplant. “Dr. Donato was extremely specific and made things a lot smoother,” he says. “I had done some research and found out that Dr. Donato is one of the best bone marrow transplant specialist in the country, so I felt much better about the whole process.”

His transplant took place April 6, 2022, and was a success. 

Advice for Others

Shortly before his diagnosis, David had just secured his dream job at Paramount CBS. David immediately informed his supervisors about his illness, and they were all sympathetic. “I went through a really bad state of depression, because I couldn’t grasp what was happening to me. I never had any health problems like this before,” he says.

David kept working throughout his entire cancer treatment. "Working was the only thing that kept me sane," he says. He tried to schedule his chemotherapy appointments in the morning so he could go home and log in for work.

He even logged into work the day after his transplant. “I was completely exhausted and very weak,” he says. “I was hooked up to all these wires and monitors. But I was determined to show my job how grateful I was and how much I wanted to work in television.”

David takes his health very seriously. “Health is my number one priority. The staff at John Theurer Cancer Center are the best people you could ever meet. They help you with any needs and or questions you may have. The doctors were so nice and resilient. Leading up to the transplant, I had a lot of questions, and they answered them in complete, full detail.”

Today, David has been in remission for about eight months. “Yeah, it was terrible that this happened, but going to the emergency room that day was a blessing in disguise,” he says. 

David advises people who are facing cancer to stay positive. “Always remember that you are not alone. Finding out I had an early form of cancer at age 32 was horrible, but once I pulled myself out of my depression, I told myself to do what the doctors said and I knew I had great team by my side.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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