Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services (CCFES) recently welcomed the newest member of the fire family, Austin Herre.
In July, Austin turned 3 years old and to celebrate he made a visit to CCFES Station 13 to see some fire trucks. Our firefighters love visitors, so it was a great opportunity for them to show off their trucks while connecting with Austin and his family. When they were dispatched to a call, Austin was able to see them leave with their flashing lights and blaring sirens which his mother described as “such an incredible experience” for him. His mom shared with us that Austin’s 3rd birthday also marked his third year with Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) and the 170th day of his cancer fighting journey.
At just 6 days old, Austin was diagnosed with ALD, a very rare disease that affects 1 in 17,000 people. ALD is a neurological disorder that affects the adrenal glands and brain. This genetic condition causes the buildup of very long chain fatty acids in the brain, which destroys the protective myelin sheath around nerve cells, responsible for brain function. Without monitoring and treatment, children with ALD could suffer hearing loss, vision loss, mobility issues, and eventually death.
“Thanks to newborn screening, Austin will receive bi-annual MRI imaging to watch for white matter build-up. If this were to ever occur, he could go into treatment immediately to stop the symptoms before they occur” said Chelsea Herre, Austin’s mother. Chelsea went on to say “the treatment for this is a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT). If you are familiar with a BMT, you know that the best donor for this is 100% human leukocyte antigens (HLA) matched sibling.”
Austin's parents went through IVF soon after Austin's diagnosis and were successful. With the help of many doctors and testing, the brought a baby girl into the world that is Austin's 100% bone marrow match. This little miracle is Oakley Faith Herre. Oakley was born in November of 2022 and the family was finally at peace, knowing they had a cure for Austin's genetic condition if it were ever needed.
Their world was soon flipped upside down again when Austin was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on January 15, 2023. They couldn’t believe their little boy was about to begin a fight against cancer at such a young age.
Austin has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite in Atlanta, GA since January 18, 2023. His end of treatment date is set for May 18, 2025, pending no hiccups along the way. Chelsea said “he has done remarkably well considering the amount of chemo he has had to take. Through all the nausea, hair loss, fatigue, & bone pain he has kept a smile on his face and made the best of every single day.” His parents are in absolute awe of the strength and resilience he has shown at such a young age.
Austin’s strength and love for fire trucks felt awfully familiar to members of CCFES, since those are some of the same traits needed to be a firefighter. Austin was invited to meet our Fire Chief, Eddie Robinson, at Fire Headquarters last month. During his visit, Austin played with toy fire trucks, crawled through real fire trucks, and had a great time interacting with firefighters and staff. He was presented with his own CCFES firefighter uniform and named an Honorary Firefighter with our agency.
“The fire service is known for the brotherhood and sisterhood that connects firefighters around the world like family” said Chief Robinson, “Austin and his family are now members of our fire family, and we will be right beside him for his fight.”
Austin visited with us again this week, this time at Fire Station 9 where he enjoyed breakfast with the firefighters, more playing, and a tour of the station. During this visit, Austin put in a little work to help wash the fire trucks, including his toy ladder truck.
Austin’s parents ask for prayers during the rest of his journey. Prayers for minimal side effects, clear scans & bloodwork, and for no relapse.
To follow Austin’s journey or to help support this family you can visit gofund.me/0f78cb6e.