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Phoebe Sumter Foundation Announces 2021 Lights of Love Tree Lighter


Americus, GA | Nov. 2, 2021 – This holiday season, the Phoebe Sumter Foundation will honor local cancer patients and their families with its annual Lights of Love tree lighting ceremony. Dr. Alex Riccardi-Turner, a cancer survivor from Americus, has been named the honorary tree lighter for Phoebe Sumter at the December 9 ceremony to be held on the hospital campus.

Alex got married on March 14, 2020, right before the world shutdown due to the COVID pandemic. Despite having to cancel their honeymoon, Alex and her husband, Wes, were excited to start building their life together. During the beginning of the pandemic, Alex, a second-generation dentist practicing with her father in Americus, spent her days navigating how to take care of emergency situations while keeping everyone safe. By the end of summer, Alex experienced another shock.

In addition to unusual bouts of fatigue, she started suffering nosebleeds, headaches, strange pains in her lungs and heart and eventually awoke one morning to hundreds of little bruises from her head to toe. Shaken, Alex reached out to a nurse practitioner friend who promptly called for a blood panel which would change Alex’s life. The test revealed her blood platelet count was only 17,000, when it should’ve been about 150,000–290,000.

In the emergency room, Alex learned she had a very rare type of leukemia called Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia and needed to begin treatment immediately. She was admitted and spent the next 30 days at Phoebe undergoing treatment. “I received 42 transfusions, which included red blood cells, platelets and plasma. I was on anything and everything you can think of and finally my platelets started climbing the ladder,” said Alex.

Following her hospital stay, Alex endured several months of an intense chemotherapy regime that ended in March 2021. Although the treatment was difficult, Alex is happy to report a clean bill of health following a bone marrow biopsy that revealed “no leukemic cells.”

Alex said she was blessed to be surrounded by such incredible caregivers. From her family and friends to the Sumter County community and physicians, everyone rallied around her with love and support. “I have nothing but wonderful things to say. Dr. Tongol, Dr. Jani, the nurses, the staff, I just feel so close to them,” said Alex.

Alex says she is honored to be this year’s Phoebe Sumter Lights of Love tree lighter. “Just giving other people hope as they walk similar journeys—letting them know that you can beat it and you’re in such great care and such great hands. I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” she added.

The other honorary tree lighters are Sam and Kara Shugart, of Albany, at Phoebe Cancer Center and Carole Marchant, of Sylvester, at Phoebe Worth. They will join family, friends, and the public during special ceremonies on each respective campus.

The Lights of Love trees are special for their symbolic white lights in memory and honor of individuals. For each light purchased for a suggested $25, a card is sent to those honored or to family members. To donate, call 229-931-1300 or visit Phoebehealth.com/sumterfoundation.

The public is welcome to the Lights of Love ceremony at Phoebe Sumter on Thursday, December 9 at 6 p.m.