The Inn Helps Zane Account for His Future
Zane was a healthy 21-year-old going to school in Philadelphia when the fatigue set in. Before long, the inclines of his East Falls neighborhood left him feeling so winded that he would nearly pass out. At home in Bel Air, Md. on winter break, a blood test showed a red blood cell count so alarmingly low that police were sent to accompany him to the hospital to ensure he would arrive safely.
Zane was hospitalized and diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare but serious blood condition that occurs when bone marrow cannot create enough new blood cells for the body to function properly.
Treatments that winter seemed successful and Zane was able to graduate from Jefferson University – formerly known as Philadelphia University – in 2018 with a degree in accounting. He went to work as an accountant and appeared to have put the medical scare behind him when, in 2019, the aplastic amenia symptoms returned with a vengeance.
“I relapsed in 2019, and eventually was referred to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the NIH for a bone marrow transplant in mid-2021,” Zane remembered. “I spent four weeks at the Clinical Center and then stayed at The Children’s Inn during December, 2021.”
Zane’s stay in the Clinical Center was prolonged by a case of graft-versus-host disease, a systemic disorder that results in the transplanted bone marrow cells attacking the host and something he described as a common but painful aftereffect of the transplant he received. “I had to stay an extra week with no food waiting on test results,” he explained. “It wrecked my [gastrointestinal system].”
Zane was 26 years old when he arrived at The Inn. Though he initially raised his eyebrows at the name “Children,” he learned that The Inn housed young adults up to 30 years of age and he quickly realized just how welcoming it was, even for someone his age.
“There were people aged from six to 29 when I was there,” he laughed. “I’ve stayed a handful of times now, especially when I have multiple appointments and commuting would be difficult. It’s always nice to see the staff again.”
Zane recalled The Inn’s Super Bowl party in 2022 as a highlight. He gathered with staffers and other families to watch the Los Angeles Rams take home the title. “The party was really well done. We were socially distanced but all together, and there was catering with good food.”
Throughout his experiences, Zane’s mother has been by his side. She stayed with him during his prolonged stay at the Clinical Center and at The Inn, serving as his primary caregiver.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit shortly after the aplastic anemia returned, Zane’s doctor advised him to stop working. The disease “would have been a death sentence,” he explained, so Zane left his position early in 2020.
With the bone marrow transplant behind him, Zane has a new lease on life. “I have some complications, but the disease is completely gone. My new bone marrow is coming in fine, and my blood counts are good. I was on a steroid to treat my GI issues and my leg muscles were severely weakened, but I am going to physical therapy. The long-term prognosis is very good.”
Zane is back to work as a bookkeeper for a consulting group in his hometown of Bel Air. As he moves on with his life, he holds a special place in his heart for The Inn and the comforting atmosphere it provided.
“It’s not home, but it’s definitely the best home away from home people can have in that sort of situation,” he said of The Inn. “The staff and the people there do their best to make us feel like we’re not just trapped in a hospital. They do a very good job there.”