Attack on the immune system
ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Friends and family pictured with Harold "HT" Fryer Jr. (rear, center) are from back left Kelly and Ed Boerner, Harold, his girlfriend Ashley Palsgrove, and Tim Zeigler. Pictured sitting from left are Donette Miller, Jenny Zeigler, mother Mary Ann Fryer, and bone marrow donor and sister Brittany Fryer.
After enlisting in the Navy last August, Harold "HT" Fryer Jr., 19, a 2009 Tamaqua graduate and student athlete, never thought he'd be dealing with a serious medical condition only weeks into his boot camp training.
While in high school, Fryer, from New Ringgold, had no problem keeping up with the grueling demands of being a football player for four years. He also held different jobs, including Nothstein Auto Repair, Zeigler Contracting, and Koch's Turkey Farm.
That's why he was surprised to find it so challenging to do certain tasks required of him by drill instructors. For some reason, the boot camp exercises were draining his energy faster than anticipated.
Two weeks into his Navy boot camp training in Great Lakes, Ill., things got worse as he found it harder to keep up with other training recruits. He also noticed that the bleeding wouldn't stop after he cut himself.
After being admitted to sick call and eventually to the hospital, Navy doctors diagnosed Fryer with Aplastic Anemia, a rare but serious medical condition where bone marrow does not replenish the body with new red and white cells. This can be a potentially fatal condition if not diagnosed and treated early, since there is an increase risk of infection and uncontrollable bleeding.
After hearing his condition, Fryer's family members and friends flew down immediately to be by his side. At the North Chicago VA hospital, Fryer began receiving daily chemotherapy treatments, which eventually resulted in the loss of his hair.
In order to be closer to home, Fryer was flown by an air-ambulance to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for treatment. Sen. Dave Argall helped arrange the transfer. The air-ambulance, which came from Wisconsin, was required to prevent possible brain bleeds caused by air pressure, as well as to avoid germs from other people. Fryer's immune system was not working due to the lack of replenished blood cells to keep past vaccines working or infections away.
On Sept. 29, Fryer was transferred to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where doctors stated that he would need a bone-marrow transplant. Twelve days later, his younger sister Brittany courageously volunteered her bone marrow for the transplant. Despite being a 100 percent match, Harold still rejected the bone barrow at first, but then eventually accepted it.
In one tense period, Fryer had to be life-flighted as his temperature hit 101 degrees. When leaving the hospital, doctors told the Fryer family, they don't know how Harold survived.
So far, the transplant and steroid treatments are working, but Fryer, who has gained more than 40 pounds, still has over a year worth of treatments remaining. In some cases, treatment can go on for over five years.
Since his immune system isn't working at full capacity, he urinates every half-hour and must stay away from large crowds or anywhere people gather to avoid any exposure to germs. His mother, Mary Ann, pointed out that a normal day-long sniffle could last a week with Harold.
Family and friends are holding a benefit for him tonight at the Tamaqua Elks Lodge, 201 West Broad St., from 7 to 11 p.m. for ages 18 and up. The benefit will help Harold with various medical, travel, and other accumulative expenses while undergoing treatment.
Tonight's non-smoking fund-raising event includes a DJ, band, drawings with prizes including a TV and gas grill. Donations call also be dropped-off or mailed to the Tamaqua Elks, C/O Harold Fryer.
For more ways to help, contact Donette Miller at (570) 668-3996, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Facebook.
There will also be a Replacement Blood Drive for "HT" on Saturday Feb. 5 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the West Penn Township Fire Company. Call Kelly or Ed at (570) 668-5044 for more information.