In April of last year, 3 year-old Keith Pitre was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Treated in New Orleans, he went into remission. In December, doctors there planned to remove his port, but his platelet count was extremely low. A bone marrow biopsy revealed that he had relapsed and that he needed a bone marrow transplant. In January of this year Keith and his family traveled from their home in Galliano, LA, south of New Orleans, to St. Jude for the operation.
When they first arrived, they spent 2 weeks at the Crowne Plaza and then came to Ronald McDonald House of Memphis for 2 months. “I absolutely love it here,” said Reanna, Keith’s mother. “I did not want to stay in a hotel room again. I kept saying ‘Try everything to get us into Ronald McDonald House.’”
Reanna explained well what the House means to them: “We have really enjoyed the socialization here at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis. We are not isolated, and everyone is friendly. Keith loves all the toys at the Ronald McDonald House, especially the train track in dining room B. He is not real outgoing because he has autism, but he is very comfortable here at the House.”
Reanna said that everyone in the family has had to make sacrifices, including her husband, Opie. He has been out of work since December, because he did not want his wife and son in a strange city so different from the small town in which they live. He was a captain on a supply boat, and since coming to Ronald McDonald House, he has stayed busy as an all-around handyman, moving furniture and fixing things.
After recovering from the bone-marrow transplant, Keith and his the family spent time at home in Louisiana, then returned for a check-up. An examination revealed that he has developed GVHD, a liver disease and needed to spend more time in Memphis for treatment during the summer.
During his second stay, the Hardy Pantry was dedicated. Josh Hardy’s family had raised money to dedicate the pantry in honor of Josh’s memory and legacy. Josh loved superheroes, Captain America especially, and the dedication party had that theme, complete with people dressed as superheroes.
Reanna said, “I told Keith I would bring him down for cupcakes, but then he saw the Super Heroes. Keith is a big fan of Batman.” Keith ran straight to the superheroes, a response to new people that he would not normally do. “To see his face light up was amazing. Keith held on to Batman’s leg. We watched as Captain America presented Josh’s family with his shield. It was Keith’s favorite day of all.”
Reanna added, “I do not want to forget anything about the House. We have made friends with families and staff as well. Watching my son Keith get along with all the people is something that I never thought I would see. I did not think I would ever see him this happy. I am never going to forget this time at Ronald McDonald House. Being here has brought a sense of home to me. I had never been out of my small town and came to Memphis. Here at RMHC, I feel like I am home again.”