Billings game warden fights cancer complications

Posted: March 19, 2012 at 1:39 am

For about three days in January, Matt Ladd said he didnt know whether it was day or night, what was top or bottom.

I was probably as sick as Ive ever been, said Ladd, a Billings game warden, in a telephone interview from Seattle. As things got progressively worse and worse, I was really concerned about what was going on right then.

Ladd was headed to Seattle for stem cell bone marrow transplant surgery when an infection he was being treated for worsened. The infection started around a catheter inserted into his chest to deliver chemotherapy drugs. The chemo was battling Ladds acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome, which was diagnosed in September. His bone marrow wasnt producing enough red blood cells.

The chemo worked. He was in remission and on his way to Seattle for a bone marrow transplant when the infection sent him into a rapid downward spiral. Because of the location of the catheter, the infection attacked his heart valves. During the struggle with the infection, his kidneys failed, his body retained water and he swelled up.

The infection scuttled plans for the bone marrow transplant surgery. With his kidneys failing, he had to undergo dialysis. As a final insult to his immune system, he had to take more chemotherapy since the surgery had been delayed and doctors feared the MDS might return.

My body and kidneys didnt respond well to the chemo, he said.

More than a month after he was scheduled to undergo surgery, Ladd is living in an apartment north of Seattle as family members rotate caretaking duties. His wife, Maureen, a math teacher at Billings West High, is holding down the fort at home, trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for their sons, Dylan, Logan and Jack.

What was going to be a short process has become a very long process, Maureen said.

Now the Ladds are waiting to hear whether Matt and his sister, Jessica Cook, will take part in a Seattle Cancer Center Alliance study of a new method of bone marrow transplantation. Since Ladds kidneys have been injured, he would normally have to have a reduced-intensity transplant used for the elderly and those with health issues, Maureen explained.

The experimental method would treat Cook, Ladds only sibling and a bone marrow transplant match, with Lipitor prior to the surgery. The cholesterol-lowering drug has shown promise in preventing reactions to transplants. If they are accepted for the study, it would mean a further delay of surgery, since Cook would have to be on the drug for a couple of weeks prior to the operation.

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Billings game warden fights cancer complications

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