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Lodi’s Caitlyn Sprinkle home from hospital after battling leukemia

Caitlyn Sprinkle meets the paramedics who hosted blood drive for her during her illness

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Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:29 am, Fri Aug 17, 2012.

On her first day home from the hospital, Caitlyn Sprinkle couldn't stop touching the soft grass, the walls of her house and anything in reach.

She had spent the past six months in near isolation at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center while her petite body fought off leukemia. She also battled sepsis, which is a blood infection that struck when Sprinkle's immune system was weakened by chemotherapy.

Today, she is tickling her little brother and going for a swim in her backyard.

She is officially in remission from acute myeloid leukemia, subtype 2, otherwise known as AML.

On Thursday, Sprinkle met several members of American Medical Response staff that sponsored a blood drive for her in June. The paramedics who drove her to the Roseville Hospital on the day of her diagnosis were able to meet her for the first time.

"We're just visiting some people," Sprinkle said.

She wore a big purple flower in her fuzzy hair and gave her helpers a homemade poster and a big hug. Her nails were painted blue and purple for the occasion.

More than 40 people donated blood at the AMR center in Stockton. At the time, Sprinkle was stuck in the hospital getting through treatment.

Acute myeloid leukemia is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

And even though doctors believe AML is the most common type of acute leukemia, it is not without its struggles.

Sprinkle was diagnosed after her mother, Becky Sprinkle, took her to the doctor when her daughter complained of leg pains and being tired back in January. After some consultation, Caitlyn Sprinkle was rushed to Dameron Hospital in Stockton, where she was diagnosed. Four rounds of treatment loomed ahead of her.

"By the time she got over one round of chemo, she was good for a few days. But then it would be time for the next round," said her mother, Becky Sprinkle. The treatment was hard on her heart. Sprinkle is no longer in treatment for cancer, but takes daily medicine for her heart.

The hospital room walls were plastered with newspaper clippings, photos and get well soon cards, said Becky Sprinkle. Every visitor had to vigorously sanitize their hands before entering the room to protect Sprinkle's delicate immune system.

She was technically in remission in March, but had to remain hospitalized for all four rounds of chemotherapy. Sprinkle moved from isolation to the intensive care unit dozens of times during her hospital stay.

But her family was able to realize the dream of bringing their daughter home for her birthday.

Caitlyn Sprinkle celebrated her eighth birthday at home on Wednesday, swimming in the backyard with her brothers and sister.

"It was amazing. Better than bringing her home as a newborn," said Becky Sprinkle.

A thin feeding tube trails from her nose. It helps her manage the 10 heart medications she takes twice a day. Sprinkle also uses the tube to get extra nutrition at night while she sleeps. She has a hard time consuming enough calories during the day. That and her short hair are the only tangible signs of Sprinkle's fight.

Her heart is weak from her time in the hospital. After a half-day of activity, the little girl is ready for a nap.

She is strong enough to start third grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Stockton, where her mother is a teacher. But she will spend only three hours a day in class until her heart can keep up.

But her mind wasn't on school when she visited the AMR Center. She was going to see a brand new ambulance, and she didn't have to go to the hospital to do it.

David Durand, AMR spokesman, led Sprinkle to the driver's seat, where she took the wheel, flipped on the lights and let the siren ring out.

A big smile took over her face when she finally clambered out of the ambulance and hugged her mom.

"I like that. I want to do that job," she said with a grin. "But not until I have a license."

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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