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Teenage cancer survivor receives COVID-19 vaccine

Doctors said the vaccine is especially important for patients like him
Adam Isenhour
Posted at 7:29 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 19:32:26-04

INDIANAPOLIS — All Hoosiers ages 16 and older are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Indiana announced Wednesday that registration was officially open. For some teens like Adam Isenhour, 16, this vaccine means everything. He is a cancer survivor.

“I was 13 when I was diagnosed. I just turned 13. It was leukemia, AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia),” Isenhour said.

That was in 2018. He was in remission for 11 months before it returned in 2019. That’s when he got a life-saving stem cell transplant from his father.

The family had to isolate after the procedure while Adam recovered due to his compromised immune system, and right when things seemed to be getting better and doctors told Adam he could return to school, the pandemic hit.

“We were going to be able to start going to school again for short visits by the end of spring break. School shut down at the end of spring break, so I mean I was just about ready to get out… like, I was literally right there and then it hit and then I can't do anything again,” Isenhour explained.

Now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The state worked with doctors at Riley Hospital for Children to identify patients who would benefit from getting the vaccine a few weeks early. Adam was one of them. His family said they did a lot of research before moving forward with it.

“The vaccine was scary at the start for myself, let alone for him. Not having any of the long term data was scary for me, but I talked to a lot of people that I trusted and read a lot of trusted literature and educated myself to make sure I was getting the appropriate correct information about it,” Adam’s mother, Alison, said.

His doctors recommended it as well.

“The data we have, which is not a lot, but the data that has been pulled together for patients that are immunocompromised, says that specifically for patients that are post-transplant, of patients that get COVID-19 that are post transplant, approximately one in four will die, so that’s a much higher rate of mortality in this patient population which is why we have this conversation with our families and it’s really important to do everything we can to keep from getting COVID. If you are eligible to receive a vaccine then you absolutely should get it,” Dr. Jodi Skiles, Medical Director of Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant and Immunotherapy Team said.

“I feel like the benefits outweigh the risks of not getting it, even though you have that underlying fear of just the unknown, we've had that with every treatment he's gone through since this started,” said Alison Isenhour.

Adam is doing well and looking forward to being able to job shadow at a local veterinarian clinic while feeling more protected against COVID-19.