Trapped by illness, former athlete fights

Photos by Heather Rousseau/The Herald
Marc Rogier of Ferdinand, 22, watched ESPN on Tuesday at home. The Forest Park High School graduate was active in sports, school and work until he was diagnosed in November with a rare autoimmune disease called Severe Aplastic Anemia. Because of treatment that breaks down his immue system, he stays inside nearly all day. A benefit for Rogier is planned for Sunday at Fleig’s Café in Ferdinand and Pine Ridge School in Kyana.

Herald Staff Writer

Marc Rogier sits on his beige, leather couch on the very end, where he can kick up his feet and relax.

Since returning home from IU Medical Center in Indianapolis, where he recently spent 30 days undergoing intense treatment, Rogier spends much of his time watching TV or sleeping. He is trapped in his own home, unable to venture into the outside world, held prisoner by Severe Aplastic Anemia, a rare autoimmune disease.

Rogier, the son of David and Ann Rogier of Ferdinand, has always been an athlete. The 2009 Forest Park High School graduate was a running back and cornerback on the football team and was an outfielder for the Ranger baseball team and earned a scholarship to play baseball at Oakland City University. Rogier hit leadoff and was the team’s offensive MVP his junior and senior seasons.

Following graduation from OCU in May 2013 with a degree in biology, Rogier decided to enter the medical field. He enrolled in nursing school at Vincennes University Jasper Campus in the spring and began his path toward becoming a nurse practitioner. Rogier kept busy outside of school, working 32 hours a week at Northwood Retirement Community.

“Then I got sick and that was the end of all that,” Rogier said, sitting next to longtime girlfriend Abby Luebbehusen, recalling the trip to the doctor changed everything. “I thought I just had strep throat.”

Rogier looked over his daily regimen of pills Tuesday. He takes nearly 40 pills per day.

On Nov. 15, just two weeks before last Thanksgiving, Rogier visited a doctor. A blood test revealed that Rogier’s bone marrow was no longer making any platelets — a sure sign of his Aplastic Anemia.
A bone marrow biopsy at the end of November confirmed the diagnosis.

After a trip to the Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center at Memorial Hospital in Jasper, Rogier was sent to IU Health University Hospital in Indianapolis to begin immunosuppressive drug therapy, a form of treatment that essentially kills his immune system.

“Right now my immune system is attacking the bone marrow stem cells,” Rogier said. “Restarting my immune system hopes to stop that, then my bone marrow should be able to produce more blood.”

This intense therapy, which Rogier continues through the ingestion of nearly 40 pills a day, has a 70 percent success rate and could have him healthy again in three months to a year.

“We’re hoping,” Luebbehusen said, wishing for recovery closer to three months than one year. “We’re staying positive.”

Staying positive wasn’t easy in the beginning for anyone, Rogier said. But now that the treatment is starting to take hold, things have begun to look up.

“I’m handling it pretty well. It was harder when I first found out and wasn’t feeling this good,” Rogier said. “It’s better now that I actually started my treatment and got the ball rolling to getting better.”

In the case that the immunosuppressive therapy does not cure Rogier, a bone marrow transplant could be in order. Rogier’s needs have already been added to Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry, and a benefit Sunday aims to add a few more names to the list.

This year, the ninth annual SP&F Football benefit, normally a fundraiser for youth football in the Southwest Dubois school district, will also go assist Rogier’s fight. Most importantly, the Dubois County Leukemia Association will give attendees the chance to register — and have their cheeks swabbed — for the national bone marrow registry.

Rogier swallowed the pills he takes for Severe Aplastic Anemia on Tuesday. Behind Rogier is a poster Rogier’s co-workers at Northwood Retirement Community made, wishing him well.

Rogier will not be able to attend the benefit. Because his immune system is being smothered, Rogier can’t risk getting sick.

“I do not go anywhere,” he said. Rogier is either at home, at Luebbehusen’s house or back at the cancer center in Jasper twice a week. There his platelet levels are checked and he receives transfusions of blood and platelets as needed. “I just try not to think about it, and stay as busy as I can.”

Through everything they both remain upbeat and hopeful this fight with anemia will soon be behind them. When asked if he plans to return to nursing school, Rogier is quick to answer matter-of-factly.

“I’m not really sure what my future holds after this, I’m just not really sure yet.”

Luebbehusen, a source of constant support and companionship, chimed in.

“We’ll just have to seen when he gets better.”

9th Annual SP&F Pork Chop or Chicken Dinner

Sunday’s ninth annual SP&F pork chop and chicken dinner will benefit for Marc Rogier of Ferdinand, who is fighting Severe Aplastic Anemia, a rare autoimmune disease.

Meals will be served in the dining room and bar at Fleig’s Café in Ferdinand from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Pine Ridge School in Kyana.

Local delivery is available by calling 367-1310.

The cost is $8 for pork chops or half chicken, green beans, potato salad and bread. Also, the Dubois County Leukemia Association will give attendees the chance to register — and have their cheeks swabbed — for the national bone marrow registry.


Contact Jonathan Streetman.

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