Stem cells and sisterly love

Utica nurse Susan Martellotto Januszewski is shown in November while donating stem cells that were later transplanted into her sister Janet Martellotto Streeper at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. - Photo courtesy Susan M. Januszewski

Utica nurse becomes patient to save sibling

By Tom Maguire

Associate editor

The “prayer warriors” have mobilized, and the target is a miracle.

   Susan M. Januszewski, RN, turned from nurse to patient when she donated her stem cells in the hope of saving her “very kind and loving” sister who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a cancer) and Langerhans cell histiocytosis (a disease of the white blood cells).

   A parishioner at St. Mary of Mount Carmel-Blessed Sacrament Church in Utica, Januszewski belongs to two prayer groups that are, in effect, soldiers in supplication: her “faithful circle.” They pray for one another, for souls in purgatory, for members who have passed on, for an end to abortion, and for all the children of the world.

   But Januszewski also solos on prayer missions: She prayed five or six rosaries while driving to the pre-transplant appointment in November in Philadelphia. Her sister Janet Martellotto Streeper, of southern New Jersey, was discharged from the hospital Jan. 11 and is now recuperating from the stem-cell transplant.

   Januszewski noted: “Every day is a gift for any of us. … Everything went as smoothly as it could with the donation and now it’s in God’s hands for the rest of her journey. Miracles do happen.”

   Father James Cesta, pastor of St. Mary of Mount Carmel-Blessed Sacrament, admires such faith, which was instilled by parents Nicholas and Dolores Martellotto. All seven children received a Catholic education.

   Father Cesta described Januszewski as a very prayerful, faithful, dependable person who goes beyond the call of duty as a parishioner and as a nurse. “Not too many people might offer to do that,” Father Cesta said of the stem-cell donation.

   A touch of the medical professional’s clinical fascination imbued Januszewski when she entered the room for the stem-cell harvest. She appreciated all the complexities of her blood being extracted from one arm, sent through a machine to separate the desired cells, and then reflowed into her other arm.

   “Sometimes too much knowledge is not good,” she said, because a little fear crept in.

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