A proud day for Jared and his parents Tim and Denise Closterman as Jared walked with his graduating class at Seminole High School in May after undergoing a bone marrow transplant in September.
Over the last few years, I have watched my nephew Mak Ralston and his best friend Jared Closterman grow up from kids into young men. In May, they both graduated from high school, but for Jared this journey has not been easy.
In 2011, when Jared was in sixth grade, he was diagnosed with a Primary Immune Deficiency Disease called Common Variable Immune Deficiency or CVID. Jared’s immune system didn’t have all the components to keep him protected from getting sick. He would get pneumonia and be hospitalized for weeks at a time.
Jared’s parents would give him daily antibiotics to help give him protection from what his immune system wasn’t able to do and he would get monthly intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) treatments at the hospital to supply him with one component his immune system wasn’t able to make.
As Jared got older and entered high school, the severity of his disease increased and his quality of life started to decrease. Jared’s mom, Denise, had to resign as an elementary school teacher to take care of Jared after he was hospitalized several times.
In 2015, doctors recommended Jared have a bone marrow transplant.
“It was still a very difficult decision to make because of the risks involved and because we were being told it was a long process to a full recovery,” said Denise.
But Jared and his parents knew a new immune system would give him a much better chance at a healthy life ahead. Through the National Marrow Donor Program there were plenty of excellent unrelated donors for Jared, which was great news.
“Some patients who need a bone marrow transplant don’t have suitable donors, so this was a huge relief,” said Denise.
In preparation of the transplant, Jared was admitted to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg in August 2016, and on Sept. 9, he had the actual transplant.
Jared will tell you even at the age of 17, “There were moments where I completely lost hope of my recovery. I felt doubt, anxiety and other natural emotions.”
What kept Jared going were his family, friends and someone he met recently through The Children’s Dream Fund, an organization granting wishes for chronically ill children.
Jared’s passion is writing and videography. In February 2016, Jared and his parents were flown out to LA for four days to meet film producer Ridley Scott, director of films like “Blade Runner,” “Alien,” “Prometheus,” “The Martian” and most recently, “Alien: Covenant.”
“The experience of meeting the director of my pursuit of film was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. He is very smart and a kind person, who genuinely cares about me and my family,” said Jared.
As a friend of Jared and his family, I was so impressed with Ridley Scott and what he did for Jared. During Jared’s bone marrow transplant, Ridley wrote Jared and sent him care packages. He gave Jared encouragement to get better. He told Jared he could intern at his production company, Scott Free Productions in LA, when he got better. Ridley probably has no idea how much of an impact he personally made on Jared’s recovery. Jared was motivated to finish high school and his health is improving greatly.
Because Jared was out of school so long, he wouldn’t have been able to finish school without the help of Pinellas County’s Hospital Homebound program. This is an incredible program that helps students like Jared and others who can’t attend school in a regular classroom setting. They offer classes with teachers via the Internet. Because of this program, Jared was able to finish his classes online and walk with his class at Seminole High School for graduation in May.
Jared and his family are so grateful to everyone who has made this life journey a success so far. They want to share their story to help others to give hope and inspiration.
“Things can become hard and overwhelming with dark times, but just remember, ‘You’ve got this!’” said Jared.
I see how much Jared has already accomplished and look forward to what the future holds for him.