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Dustin Wunderlich, 28, leukemia sufferers' advocate, dies

Dustin Wunderlich has leukemia and started a foundation

Dustin Wunderlich has leukemia and started a foundation called Prevail to help others with leukemia. (April 16, 2010) Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Dustin Wunderlich, known for his work on behalf of those with leukemia and founder of an organization and website to help them obtain lifesaving bone-marrow transplants -- and tell their stories -- has succumbed to the disease himself.

The native Long Islander and Nesconset resident was 28.

"So many people in his condition fight so hard and so long when faced with the challenges of leukemia," said his father, Steve Wunderlich of Nesconset.

"And he fought and fought. God, how he fought. He just couldn't win the war. He's a hero; he's my hero," Wunderlich said.

Dustin Wunderlich was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia on Dec. 9, 2008, a diagnosis he had told Newsday in 2009 had not come easily. He had been experiencing seemingly unrelated symptoms, none of which suggested anything serious. He recalled being fatigued and intermittently suffering from inflamed, irritated and occasionally bleeding gums.

"It took quite a while, and several trips to the dentist and to the regular doctor, before somebody had the good idea to get a blood test and that's when everything hit the fan," he said.

It was also in 2009 when Wunderlich founded, only a few months after completing chemotherapy. He aimed his fledgling nonprofit at organizing bone-marrow drives. Wunderlich said he was well aware that when it came to leukemia, treatments did not always come from a high-tech medication but sometimes from the bone marrow of strangers.

He also provided space on his website for local residents with leukemia to discuss their illness -- and issue pleas to good Samaritans anywhere to donate bone marrow.

"Dustin inspired a lot of people to face this disease head-on and give it everything they had. And that's what he did. He gave it everything he had," Steve Wunderlich said of his son.

"We did nothing but bone-marrow registry drives and we registered 800-and-some-odd new donors," he continued. "And we just found out through the grapevine that one of our registrants is a match . . . [for an anonymous leukemia patient]. So one out of 800 is a home run."

Dustin Wunderlich was born April 19, 1984, and graduated from Sachem North High School in 2002.

In addition to his advocacy, he worked for a Ronkonkoma company that sells electronic components to military contractors. When he was in remission, he frequently returned to Stony Brook University Hospital to visit and encourage other leukemia patients, his father and family friends say.

The funeral service will be Friday at 11:30 a.m. at Temple Beth Sholom, 433 Edgewood Ave., Smithtown.

In addition to his father, survivors include his mother, Debbie, and a brother, Cory, all of Nesconset.

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