Caring people are again banding together to help a Bay Area baby with many family ties to the Central Coast and a rare genetic disorder that results in an extreme vulnerability to infectious diseases. The disorder, Omenn syndrome, is often called “bubble baby disease.”
A lasagna-dinner fundraiser to help the family of 5-month-old Phoenix Wilkinson will be held Saturday, Feb. 21, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St. The event, organized and underwritten by world-renowned channel swimmer David Yudovin and wife Beth, will include a wine and beer bar and large silent auction. Other family members also may contribute.
The menu includes lasagna, salad, garlic bread and homemade cookies or brownies.
Tickets, $25 each, will be on sale at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce by Feb. 5, and the Yudovins are urging people to buy them early, since a sellout is possible (and the caterer, Linn’s, needs to know how much lasagna to make). Some take-out orders may be available.
Born prematurely, Phoenix was diagnosed about a month later with severe combined immunodeficiency disease. Omenn patients’ highly compromised immune systems are considered to be almost absent, putting them at extreme risk of serious illness and even early death.
Some “bubble babies” have had to live in a sterile environment, like Phoenix for much of his short but love-filled life. His parents — Coast Union High School grads Pat and Kristen (Anderson) Wilkinson — have been at his side around the clock, alternating shifts when they can.
Late last year, the enchanting child underwent a rigorous two-week course of strong chemotherapy, followed by a bone-marrow transplant at UC San Francisco Medical Center on Dec. 30. According to his mother, Phoenix appears to be pulling out of a relapse he had after the surgery, a setback that put him into isolation and intensive care for a while.
She said in a Feb. 2 phone interview that if Phoenix continues to improve, they may be able to take him home sometime this month, now that the residence has been “high cleaned” from floor to ceiling, including all furniture and rugs. She said the family has been told to expect it to take about a year for her son’s immune system to kick into high gear.
Other family members have lived on the North Coast for decades, including grandparents Mike Anderson (a Cambria contractor), Kim Anderson of Templeton, and Kim and Leslie Eady of Cayucos, who own the Cambria Shores Motel. Phoenix’s great grandparents Don and Mary Anderson also live in Cambria.
David Yudovin knows intimately the emotional value of having vast community support to rely upon during such trying times.
In 1978, he suffered a massive heart attack while swimming the Santa Barbara Channel, and he is a leukemia survivor.
“Without the emotional support of so many friends and strangers,” he said recently, “I don’t know if I would have survived. I want Phoenix’s family to know their town is here for them and is behind them 100 percent.”
For those who can’t make it to the dinner, donations to the fund for the benefit of Phoenix Wilkinson may be taken to any Heritage Oaks Bank branch.