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Parkston student granted Make-A-Wish one year after life-changing transplant

PARKSTON -- One year ago, Samantha Kinneberg's only wish was to be released from the hospital. Thursday night, a year to the day after a life-changing bone marrow transplant, Kinneberg was granted a trip to Hawaii from the Make-A-Wish Foundation,...

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Representatives with Make-A-Wish South Dakota present Parkston junior Samantha Kinneberg, center, with itinerary for a trip to Hawaii, courtesy of the organization, during a special ceremony Thursday night. Kinneberg was diagnosed in July 2015 with aplastic anemia, a rare condition in which the body stops producing enough new blood cells.(Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

PARKSTON - One year ago, Samantha Kinneberg’s only wish was to be released from the hospital.

Thursday night, a year to the day after a life-changing bone marrow transplant, Kinneberg was granted a trip to Hawaii from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, capping what she and her family called the “longest journey of our lives.”

The presentation took place between the Parkston girls and boys home basketball games against Bon Homme. The night was “Hawaiian-themed” in honor of Kinneberg.

“I don’t even know what to say because it’s such a great thing what Make-A-Wish does,” Kinneberg said following the presentation. “It gives kids something to hold on to when they’re going through hard times, and they did that for me.”  

Kinneberg, a junior at Parkston High School, was diagnosed in July 2015 with aplastic anemia, a rare condition in which the body stops producing enough new blood cells. She was in Minneapolis for treatments from December 2015 to April 2016.

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Beginning immediately following her diagnosis, Samantha began receiving blood and platelet transfusions periodically, and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. On Jan. 19, 2016, she received a bone marrow transplant, which essentially replaced damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy stem cells - immature cells in the bone marrow that give rise to all blood cells.

After receiving the transplant, Kinneberg was required to stay at the hospital for 20 days and remain nearby to receive treatment for 80 more days to ensure the procedure didn’t fail.

Around that time, the Make-A-Wish foundation reached out to the Kinneberg family, notifying them Samantha was chosen to receive a wish. Kinneberg said she knew she was chosen to receive a wish, and spent time deciding what she wanted to do - something the whole family would enjoy.

And her family said the promise of a wish was enough to help Kinneberg through some of her most difficult days.

“I think the big thing was it gave her something to look forward to - that’s what Make-A-Wish does,” said Kinneberg’s dad, Tony. “Unless you’ve actually gone through that process and know what it’s like to be in the hospital all that time - unless you live it, you don’t know what people go through and it’s the hugest eye-opening experience.”

But, before Kinneberg could have her wish come true, doctors had to give her a clean bill of health, which they did at her most recent appointment Jan. 10 in Minneapolis.

Between the appointment and Thursday, Kinneberg’s “wish granting team” has been hard at work finalizing the details of her trip and the event at the basketball games, according to one of her “wish granters,” Jen Johnston, who's also the executive director of Mitchell Main Street & Beyond. The event included a short presentation, handing out more than 350 leis and giving Samantha the itinerary for her trip.

To be eligible for a wish, patients must be between the ages of 2½ and 18, and be facing a life-threatening illness, according to President of Make-A-Wish South Dakota Paul Krueger. In South Dakota, between 50 and 60 wishes are granted annually and the average cost of fulfilling a wish is $7,000, Krueger said.

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The Kinneberg family will leave on Jan. 28 for their first-ever Hawaii vacation, which will include snorkeling, golf, body surfing and a visit to Pearl Harbor, among other activities.

“It’s been a long year to some extent, but it’s gone fast,” Tony said. “It’s been a long journey, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”


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