Teal strands visible in the hair of some Plainedge High School students during their 2016 homecoming festivities in North Massapequa on Oct. 1 were no mere fashion statement, but a show of support for a future Plainedge Red Devil.
Marissa Pawlowski, a 10-year-old sixth-grader in the Plainedge school district, is battling a rare blood disorder and was unable to attend the homecoming varsity football game. Her condition, called aplastic anemia, occurs when the bone marrow stops producing enough new blood cells, leaving her easily fatigued and prone to bleeding and infections, among other symptoms.
Marissa was admitted to NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Manhattan on Sept. 7, and it was later discovered that Marissa’s older sister, Julia — a sophomore at Plainedge — was found to be a match for a bone marrow transplant.
Julia, 15, who also did not attend the homecoming festivities, was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 15 for a bone marrow harvest, with the transplant successfully performed on Sept. 16.
But several members of the cheerleading squad and kickline team made sure to remind everyone at homecoming to keep Marissa and the Pawlowski family in mind. Those who wore teal (Marissa’s favorite color) in their hair had it done at Envy Me Salon in Massapequa. The salon charged $10 for each thread, with proceeds set aside for the Pawlowski family.
(The outpouring of support has also extended online, as Marissa received a video of support from pop singer Shawn Mendes. Check out his video and her reaction at http://bit.ly/2dMW5E9 and http://bit.ly/2e83wci.)
Marissa and Julia’s mom, Denise Palowski, said Tuesday that Julia returned to school on Sept. 26, and that Marissa has done so well that she was able to return home on Oct. 3, three days earlier than expected.
“We follow up with the Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic twice a week to make sure her medication is monitored and her blood cell levels are safe,” Pawlowski said. “We are in for a long road ahead in managing Marissa’s levels and keeping her germ- [and] infection-free due to her immune system being wiped out.”
Marissa must remain in isolation for the time being, but “she feels good and is in very good spirits,” her mother said. As for the outpouring of support generated by Plainedge students, their actions have not gone unappreciated.
“Every time we saw another [online] post of girls getting these extensions we were overwhelmed with emotion,” Pawlowski said. “There were teams and girls we didn’t even know getting extensions, which was so incredible. Marissa saw and felt the love, and to date is grateful for all of the love and support the community of family, friends and just neighbors have shown us.”