Cleveland Heights couple stages Jungle Jam Benefit for bone marrow disease research

Annalyse Kitzberger, 8, of Cleveland Heights was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia three years ago and is now in remission.

Annalyse Kitzberger loves zebras. She loves them so much that the eight-year-old dreams of someday having one of her own.

Her parents, Jeff and Sherri Kitzberger of Cleveland Heights, have their own dream: that a cure for bone marrow disease will soon be found so that Annalyse and others afflicted with the rare illness can be healthy.

To help make their dream come true, the Kitzbergers have devised a special musical and entertainment benefit. "Jungle Jam" is to be held Friday, Oct. 17 from 6:30 p.m. to midnight at the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland. It will raise funds to help find a cure for bone marrow disease.

Proceeds from Jungle Jam will help fund the research of Dr. Jaroslaw Maciejewski of the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Maciejewski is one of the world's foremost specialists in bone marrow disease and the principal investigator of the Bone Marrow Failure Disease Consortium. Bone marrow failure diseases include Aplastic Anemia, Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH) and Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS). These are non-contagious but rare and potentially fatal illnesses in which blood production in the marrow is disrupted. Complications can arise, including the inability of blood to clot and susceptibility to infections. Right now, the only cure is a bone marrow transplant. (Annalyse does not have a perfect donor match.)

Dr. Maciejewski has proposed research to investigate the viral causes of Aplastic Anemia, a type of bone marrow disease in which stem cells in the bone marrow are destroyed and fail to reproduce. Using viral chip technology, researchers will seek to identify the virus responsible for Aplastic Anemia and ultimately develop diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive measures.

Aplastic Anemia is an "orphan bone marrow disease," so named because it is rare. (Approximately four new cases of Aplastic Anemia per one million people in the United States arise each year.) Funding is scarce and research is limited. That does not make its threat any less serious.

Annalyse was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia and PNH just as she was about to enter kindergarten three years ago. She stayed home during her first year of school and underwent chemotherapy as her body struggled to resist infections.

Today, Annalyse seems to be a typical third grader. She runs through her backyard at the end of a school day, her long blond hair dancing in the wind. She is a Brownie at Gesu School in University Heights, takes horseback riding lessons and, in addition to a zebra, hopes to one day own a pug, a Dalmatian or a German shepherd. For now, Annalyse's Aplastic Anemia is in remission, but her PNH remains a threat. Her body must work harder than most to produce enough red blood cells. She has blood drawn on a regular basis to check for low counts. Each time, her parents anxiously wait for positive numbers.

The Kitzbergers hope that Jungle Jam will increase awareness of bone marrow disease and raise much-needed funds for research and a cure. In addition to performances by local bands, Jungle Jam will feature a silent auction and special guest appearances. Tickets start at $125 and are available in advance and at the door. Sponsorships for the event are still available. For more information, contact Pauline Ramig at 216-297-9062 or visit

Mary Patton is a public relations consultant and a longtime resident of the Heights. She currently lives in University Heights with her husband and daughter.

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Volume 1, Issue 6, Posted 3:51 PM, 08.26.2008