ITHACA, N.Y. — The South Hill Elementary School community and Ithaca Police Department are teaming together to host a blood and bone marrow drive for a woman who is struggling with a condition that has left doctors searching for a diagnosis for months.
South Hill Elementary School Librarian Sarah Jones-Williamson was initially diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare condition where bone marrow no longer produces enough blood cells. While treatment for that is by no means easy — sometimes involving chemotherapy and bone marrow transfusions — it was possible to make a treatment plan for her.
But recently, tests have revealed that Jones-Williamson does not have aplastic anemia, meaning her bone marrow and blood cell issues remain undiagnosed.
Jones was preparing to get married this summer when she first began experiencing symptoms, getting exhausted and winded just from walking up a flight of stairs. Thinking she might just be getting sick, she ignored it, and in mid-August married Ithaca Police Officer Jamie Williamson, who she’d been dating for about three-and-a-half years.
“She would walk up a flight of stairs and she would be out of breath. She would be really tired a lot. And it’s just not like her,” Williamson said.
Blood and bone marrow drive in honor of Sarah Jones
• Time: 3 – 9 p.m.
• Date: March 15
• Place: South Hill Elementary School, 520 Hudson St. in Ithaca
This blood and bone marrow drive is being co-hosted by South Hill Elementary School and the Ithaca Police Department. To register for an appointment at the blood drive, click here.
By November, the symptoms still hadn’t gotten better and she went to the hospital to get blood tests done. That same day, she got a phone call.
“You have to go back to the hospital immediately,” Williamson recalled she was told. Her red and white blood cell count was incredibly low.
From Cortland Regional Medical Center, Jones was taken in an ambulance to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse where she stayed for five days and received four blood transfusions. Since then, she has received 13 blood transfusions.
Jones-Williamson had also been undergone testing at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston, where she has undergone tests for 95 different ailments and had three bone marrow biopsies as doctors search for a diagnosis.
The idea for the blood and bone marrow drive, he said, came from an IPD data entry clerk, Sarah Delmage. Both the school and IPD have worked together to plan the drive in Jones-Williamson’s honor.
While filling out the forms for the event, Williamson wrote, “Sarah Jones is my wife and my best friend. We got married this past August but I feel like I have loved her my entire life. She is a kindred spirit.”
He said she was on board with the drive to help raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and marrow, especially because blood transfusions are what have kept her alive over the past few months.
Jones-Williamson has been out of work since November and Williamson said she goes through good days and bad days.
“Some days she feels great. Some days she feels absolutely great. Other days she feels, literally, she has no energy. She’s dizzy when she stands up, she gets out of breath really easily,” he said.
It’s been hardest on her because it takes her away from doing the day-to-day things she would usually do with her children, including being a Girl Scout leader. She has two children, Chloe, 5, and Claire, 6, in addition to two step-children, Jacob, 8, and Emily, 6.
“She doesn’t have a bad attitude about it,” Williamson said. “That’s not her style. When she’s faced with adversity she digs her heels in and gets through it … that’s such an amazing quality to have.”
Since her diagnosis, friends from everywhere Jones has lived or worked — Cortland, Ithaca, Horseheads — have stopped by their house, bringing food, eating and staying to chat.
“It’s been a very long journey and we’ve got a lot longer to go. But her friends and family have made this journey (possible) … It’s been pretty amazing, for sure, the outpouring of support,” he said. “She touches people’s lives and there’s no bigger testament than that for now.”