'Day of Hope' planned for Plymouth teen

PLYMOUTH — Just a month ago, 15-year-old Hope Banghart, a Plymouth High School student, was going about her daily life without any problems. When Hope started complaining to her mother, Debbie Banghart, of feeling light headed and signs of fatigue, her mother figured the teen was just feeling under the weather because of the summer heat. Unfortunately, Hope’s symptoms kept getting worse.
“Last Thursday, Hope didn’t eat much dinner, and around 11 p.m. Christine (Hope’s older sister) said Hope was crying in her room because she couldn’t breathe,” remembered Debbie Banghart. “Looking back now, there were other symptoms: she had a swollen lymph node under her arm that went away, and she was bruising easily and having trouble sleeping.”
The Banghart family rushed Hope to the emergency room Thursday night, where doctors did a chest X-ray and blood work. They found that Hope’s white blood cell count was 133,000. A normal white blood cell count is four or five thousand.
“Even with somebody sick, it isn’t more than 15,000,” said Debbie.
Hope also had low and dropping hemoglobin levels, and was severely anemic. She was transported in an ambulance to Riley Hospital for Children early Friday morning.
“(At Riley) they did blood transfusions and tested her bone marrow,” said Debbie, “but they could tell already, from her white blood cell count, that she had leukemia.”
Hope was diagnosed with AML leukemia, a fairly rare type of cancer that only about 20 percent of children diagnosed with leukemia have, according to Debbie. The teen immediately began what will be a long road of chemotherapy treatments.
“Right now we are here (at Riley) for a month, then we will go home for a week,” said Debbie. “We will do that for about three months, and after that she will get a bone marrow transplant, which is another six to eight weeks in the hospital.”
Christine and Hope’s 4-year-old brother Josh are being tested now to see if they would be able to donate bone marrow.
“By the end of this week, Hope will have zero immune system,” said Debbie. “That’s to get rid of her white blood cells so her bone marrow can build new ones up. Any type of infection could land her in intensive care.”
Hope’s youth pastor, Chris Miller, is heading up a “Day of Hope” fundraiser to help the Banghart family with medical expenses. Many local teenagers are helping to set up and run the event, a family fun day planned for July 28 in the Church of the Heartland parking lot on E. Jefferson St.
“It will be from 2 to 8 p.m., and what we are doing is inviting friends, family, and other churches to set up a booth to sell stuff,” said Miller. “There will be inflatables set up all day, kid’s games, and food vendors.”
The event is being promoted using the Facebook pages, “Hope for Hope,” and “Day of Hope.”
Debbie said that Hope appreciates the outpouring of calls, text messages, visits, and cards she has received from friends since being hospitalized.
“She has a very good attitude, and she is very strong,” said Debbie.
The Banghart family is impressed, said Debbie, by the support not just from adults, but also from teenagers.
“There are things being headed up by teenagers that you never thought would be headed up by teenagers,” said Debbie.
“(The teens) feel like Hope is part of their family, and when one of them is hurting, they all pitch in and do whatever it takes,” said Miller.