Aeronautics student in need of bone marrow

Holly Mueller

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Dear Journal,

My dad had brought me in some pork, sauerkraut and potatoes yesterday, (YUMMY POLISH food!!!) and it was awesome. And my Aunt Audrey and I watched ‘American Idol’! It was great, and tonight is the guys! I’m starting to feel tired almost everyday, and it’s getting worse as the days go on. I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep, the not good ‘wake me up 10 times a night’ sleep, or just lack of activities that are making me tired, but I just feel like sleeping the day away!

Nikki Kukwa, a senior flight technology major who was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2005, writes in a daily journal at to keep her friends and family up to date with her current state of health.

Kukwa is currently awaiting a bone marrow transplant at University Hospital in Cleveland, Debbie Kukwa, Nikki’s mother, said in an e-mail.

Debbie said Nikki has tried to fight her leukemia with special regimens and drugs, such as Gleevec, a pill form of chemotherapy. However, the drugs have not been successful at putting Nikki into remission.

Debbie also said by the time her family and doctors realized the new medication wasn’t working, “Nikki’s body was in blast phase,” and her body was rejecting lots of immature white blood cells that do nothing but keep her other blood cells from working correctly.

“Since Feb. 1, Nikki has been at University Hospital so she could be treated with chemotherapy to help her get her disease into remission,” Debbie said.

In order to help Nikki and others in need find a bone marrow match, the Kent State Aeronautics Department sponsored a blood and bone marrow drive on Monday.

“Chances of matching her are pretty slim, but this is how we support our students,” said Capt. Maureen Moore, assistant flight training professor, said.

Moore said when she served as a Marine, she was taught the importance of taking care of other people and this rule also applies to education.

“This is our job as educators:to take care of our students,” she said.

Students and faculty attended the drive Monday hoping to help in Nikki’s search for marrow. Jessica Cartagena, a recruitment specialist from the National Marrow Donor Program, said 30 percent of people find a match within their family, but Nikki did not. Cartagena said chances are slim Nikki will find match from Monday’s drive. But, donors will be able to help other people in need.

Stacey Hettick, a flight instructor at the Kent State Airport and Nikki’s former roommate, attended the drive to show her support. Two of Hettick’s family members in Pennsylvania also wanted to donate. She’s been keeping up with Nikki ever since she was diagnosed.

Other friends showed support just by being there.

Eric Pawloski, senior flight technology major, said Nikki is a “trooper.” He described Nikki as a nice girl who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself.

Pawloski said one of the best times he spent with Nikki was when he let her fly. Nikki was unable to pass the medical exam for the program because of an experimental drug she was taking at the time, so she was unable to take the flight training class that allowed her to fly a plane.

Pawloski recalled their trip from Cleveland Hopkins Airport to Battle Creek, Mich. The plane climbed to the correct altitude, “and I just let her fly. This is one of the best memories I have with her,” he said.

For more information on becoming a bone marrow donor, visit To read Nikki’s daily journal entries, visit her Web site at

Contact College of Technology reporter Holly Mueller at [email protected].