By Jed Lanyon
Launching Place resident Tristan Rogers shaved off his dreadlocks in support of 16 year old Merrick Edleston, who was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.
Merrick has spent the last ten weeks in the Monash Hospital and is preparing for a second round of chemotherapy and will soon face the prospect of a bone marrow transplant to treat his condition.
Mr Rogers, 21, had been growing his dreadlocks for over seven years. When he heard about what Seville resident Merrick was going through, he pledged his hair to raise funds in support of the Edleston family.
The campaign rallied the Seville community including Merrick’s schools of Seville Primary School and Lilydale High School and raised over $12,000 for the Edlestons.
Merrick’s mother Maree, was thankful for the community’s donations and said the money would help cover the costs of fuel traveling to and from hospital, medical expenses, parking costs, purchasing meals during long hospital stays, lost wages as well as covering a tutor to help Merrick catch up on schooling when possible.
“He has to get a bone marrow transplant,” she said. “Hopefully it’ll be replaced by someone in the family, if not then by donation. We’re still waiting to hear if any of his siblings, me or dad is a good enough match.”
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. AML is not a single disease but the name given to a group of leukaemias that develop in the myeloid cell line in the bone marrow. Each year in Australia around 900 people are diagnosed with AML and it is more common in adults over the age of 60. Around 50 children (0-14 years) are diagnosed with AML in Australia each year.
“He had been feeling tired and looking a bit pale and had been that way for many months really. You think, is this normal or a teenager thing? Is he staying up too late or not getting outside enough?
“It got to the point where it was ridiculous, he became really pale and had difficulties where simple tasks would wear him out. We had blood tests done and received a phone call on the same day saying you need to take him to Box Hill Hospital now.”
Ms Edleston said she remembered taking Merrick to the hospital with the blood results which featured the word ‘Leukemia’.
“He was admitted on the 20th of January and has not come home again.”
Despite this, Ms Edleston said Merrick kept a positive attitude and had been continuing a bit of his school work from his maths methods class.
“His attitude has been excellent, he hasn’t complained or felt too sorry for himself. He’s fairly matter of fact about it all, but can get a bit grumpy or tired and has been suffering from nausea.
“We’re very appreciative (of the support) it’s super awkward as most of us aren’t comfortable or used to receiving this kind of help from others. We just want to say thank you to everybody.
“I think it’s fantastic what Tristan is sacrificing. It’s really thoughtful especially of a young man that age to be generous and altruistic. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Mr Rogers, who works at Cire Services’ Out of School Hours Care Program in Badger Creek, said he heard about Merrick’s condition through his mother.
“Mum told me the story about Merrick and what had happened and you feel the need to help out in whatever way you can … It’s been incredible. I’m honestly amazed at how well it’s been received.”
Speaking prior to the big shave, Mr Rogers said that he wasn’t nervous to lose his hair and that he was looking forward to shedding the weight of the dreadlocks from his head.
The fundraising event was live streamed from Seville’s Branded Burgers and Bar to ensure Merrick could watch from his hospital room. Co-owner Gina Braidner explained why they were happy to help.
“It’s just about giving a platform for people to come together and support each other, we have the platform and the facilities so we just need to put it out there so people can use it,” she said. “It’s like someone having the biggest microphone where you would use out to help give someone else a voice wouldn’t you?”
The burger bar got behind the cause by offering their restaurant while pitching in 20 per cent of their sales across the hours of the event.
To view the fundraiser, visit: https://bit.ly/3flJqJ8