News 11 Special Report: Cancer Cluster

Report by Jonathon Walsh - email | bio
Posted by LS

CLYDE (WTOL) - A northwest Ohio family is going through another nightmare. After one of their children has gone through a fight with cancer, now another of their children has been diagnosed.

It's all part of a more than two-year-long medical mystery in and around the Clyde area. News 11's Jonathan Walsh has been following this story from the beginning.

Where do we stand with this possible cancer cluster?

The state department of health has already determined there are way too many childhood cancer cases around Clyde for that population size.

The Ohio EPA is now involved, but the families are questioning what's really being done while more children are dying and others are added to the case list.

"Pretty shocking... something we weren't prepared for," says Dave Hisey, "We thought we were all done with all this."

Hisey and his family don't understand why. After their teenage daughter Tyler Smith went through a life-threatening battle against leukemia, now their 10-year-old son Tanner Hisey has been diagnosed with leukemia as well.

"I look at him and think he's got his life ahead of him, and it just crushes me," Dave says. "It crushed me for my daughter, and it crushes me to think of what he's got to go through."

Tanner is in the same hands of the doctors who helped his sister at Saint Vincent Mercy Children's Hospital.

Tanner was there playing with his sister a couple years ago as News 11 viewers watched Tyler go through her fight. What does he think of his diagnosis now?  He's worried. "If I get sick, it will be really bad during this, and I don't want that to happen," he says. "And I don't like having to go through this at all."

Tanner is now one of 20 children who are a part of the Clyde area cancer study. Children who were a part of the case have died since the mystery first unfolded more than two years ago.   After the county and state health departments could not find a common link to the cancers, they brought in the Ohio EPA. That agency met with the parents for the first time last January and then again around March.

News 11 wanted to know what the EPA has done since those initial meetings. We were told, "Without a specific direction to go, we're just trying to find anything."

Dina Pierce is a spokesperson for the Ohio EPA.  She says the EPA's role is to support the investigation. Reps have looked through records of companies and walked through their buildings to see if anything is suspicious with emissions. But families want to know... what about actual testing.

Jonathon Walsh asks, "Have you tested the air?  Have you tested the water?  Have you tested soil?  What's been going on the past six to seven months?"
They haven't run any of those kinds of tests," Pierce says.

Pierce says the EPA is trying to establish a meeting with all the agencies involved and even had a conference call last month to set that meeting up. But nothing has been established yet. Pierce says the EPA has not forgotten about the families and the case is a high priority.

Jonathon Walsh asks Dina PIerce, "When these families hear "high priority" they're going to wonder "Okay, if it's such a high priority why haven't we done anything in the past as far as testing and ruling things out. Why haven't we done anything in the past six to seven months?"

"Um...I can't answer that," Pierce says.

She explains there's a lot of work that goes into tests like that before physically doing them. "It's not a fast process unfortunately."

Meanwhile, unfortunately, families like the Hiseys have wonder if they should have been doing something differently all this time.

Dave Hisey says, "In the two years it's taken to do this study, my son's gotten sick.  So, did I let him down?  Did I let other people down by not pushing the EPA or somebody to do more then?  I don't know."

And meanwhile, unfortunately, the city of Clyde is having to put on fund raisers for the families. They want to help the families. Residents just wish they didn't have to under these circumstances. One donor says, "It's very important. I have two kids of my own. We don't know what's going on.  Hopefully, we find out what's going on in Clyde."

The Brown family wants to know, too.  Alexa Brown who News 11 has featured before as part of this cancer study has seen the cancer return. This time it is in her spine.

The Browns are friends with the Hiseys. "We've run into them (the Hisey's) at the hospital several times in the past month and a half."

The Browns and the Hiseys can't say enough about the people of Clyde during these tough times. "They care.  They really do care.  They cared when 'lexa had her benefit in the summer and my friend Emily just had a benefit for her and there was a big turnout. We're thankful."

Thankful, but also mindful of what this mystery is doing to the community and the children who are now cancer patients. Tanner says, "I just wish all of this would go away so everyone can have some fun."

The Sandusky Health Department says it remains the lead investigative agency on the case. It's brought on board a group from the CDC that specializes in toxic issues to help.

The Ohio EPA says the Clyde Cancer Study is the only one of its kind that the agency is working on.