Fort Osage teen who beat rare cancer three times hospitalized with COVID-19

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Fort Osage High School junior has spent a month in intensive care with COVID-19. She beat cancer three times but her family says nothing could have prepared them for what she’s going through now. 

At the age of 4, Aspen Deke was diagnosed with the Philadelphia chromosome positive form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. At the time she was given a dire prognosis. Now Aspen, 17,  is having to fight COVID-19 in a way doctors can only find a couple teens are anywhere in the world. 

After seven years cancer free, Aspen’s Army had to gear up again, just after Deke started high school.

“Just seeing what she had to go through the first time was like Oh my God you never really think something this horrible can happen to someone you love so much,” friend Breyanna Cox said. 

She had another relapse her sophomore year, but finally doctors seemed to have a treatment working well for her and she was in remission. In November, Deke tested for positive for COVID-19.

“It was very scary when I first found out because I know her immune system is not the same as everybody else’s,” friend Julia Couch said. 

Because of her most recent cancer treatment, she currently has no B cells to fight off the virus. And since being infected, she’s developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome.  Any treatment they do for COVID-19 only makes the inflammation attacking her body worse. The same goes for the effects MIS-C treatment have on COVID-19. 

She’s gone through four years of chemo and a bone marrow transplant, but her parents say this is much worse than cancer. 

“At least with cancer, as bad as it sounds and it is scary, but there’s a lot that you know about it. They can say, ‘this is how bad it is, this is what we are going to do. This is what we expect.’ But with this everything is unknown,” Eric Deke said.

She was admitted to Children’s Mercy Hospital almost two weeks before her favorite holiday, Christmas, and has been in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit since New Year’s Eve. Most of that time has been spent intubated on a ventilator. 

Her friends sent photos to decorate her hospital room wanting nurses to know the smiling teen who’s sedated. 

“She’s not alone she has the all of these hundreds of people that have her back to support her,” Cox said.

“She has the biggest heart. She’s such an amazing girl. I’m blessed to have her in my life. She’s my hero,” Couch added.

Both her friends and parents said Aspen loves to bake cakes and cupcakes for birthdays and holidays, and plans months in advance buying gifts for her parents, brothers and friends at Fort Osage High and others she met during cancer treatments at Children’s Mercy.

The family says it’s not taking down the Christmas tree and they’ll wait to celebrate the holiday with her and open those gifts when she comes home. Doctors have told the family at the very least she’ll be in intensive care another month. 

“Maybe she’ll surprise us,” her mother Amanda Deke said.

“She always does,” her father stated.

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