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Brain Infection Plagues Paterson Teacher Amid Cancer Battle

Emily Setteducato
Emily Setteducato Photo Credit: Courtesy of GoFundMe "Urgent Need to Save Emily!!"

After battling leukemia, braving multiple rounds of chemotherapy, and receiving a life-saving stem cell transplant from an anonymous donor, Emily Setteducato thought her medical woes were over. 

The 28-year-old Paterson elementary school teacher had left the hospital, returned to the classroom, celebrated a birthday, and was back to planning a future with her long-time boyfriend, Will. 

But now, the Saddle Brook woman is battling an infection in her brain, complicated by a weakened immune system still reeling from her cancer treatment, her sister Jackie Griffin writes in a GoFundMe campaign

"Things were starting to look up for Emily until very recently when she contracted a virus that her body, though getting stronger every day, could just not fight," Jackie said. "So she has two potentially fatal conditions and her body and medicine can't fight both at once."

Her medical issues are complex and interlocking. Emily has Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), a condition that can occur after bone marrow or stem cell transplants, and has been given steroids to treat it, her sister writes. 

But she's also contracted the John Cunningham (JC) virus, a normally harmless and common germ that can be dangerous for those with a weakened immune response.

"Typically the body fights off JC naturally, but because of the steroids, she's on for GVHD her body can't fight it," Jackie says. "The doctors can't remove the steroids because they need to get the GVHD under control."

To save her life, Emily will need to take part in a clinical trial at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital — but arranging travel to Ohio and back under a physician's care for multiple treatments is out of her price range, her sister writes. 

"Each trip can cost upwards of $50,000 — more than a New Jersey preschool teacher’s annual salary," Jackie said. 

As of Saturday, Jan. 14, her GoFundMe has raised a staggering $130,000 of its $200,000 goal. 

Click here to donate to Emily Setteducato's GoFundMe campaign. 

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