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Make-A-Wish Foundation presents music-loving teen with guitar

Kimberly Lohse, 14, left, displays the Signature Series guitar by ESP presented to her Wednesday by the Make a Wish Foundation of Minnesota during a lyceum program at MACCRAY High School in Clara City. Lohse suffers from aplastic anemia, a disease in which the bone marrow stops producing blood cells. Also pictured is Lohse's father, Brian. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Kimberly Lohse aspires to be a guitarist in a rock band.

But first, the 14-year-old has taken the leading role in a much bigger calling.

"She an example of keeping her chin up and facing what's ahead of her,'' said her mother, Marilyn Lohse.

Being that sort of example won the ninth-grader at the MACCRAY High School the applause of her classmates following a school lyceum on We-dnesday, and what might be her ticket to be a rock star.

As students in grades 7-12 watched, the Make-A-Wish Fo-undation of Minnesota presented Lohse with a Signature Series guitar by ESP carrying the name of her favorite guitarist, Alexi Laiho of the Finnish rock band Children of Bodom. It came with an amplifier strong enough to blow a locomotive off the tracks, a gift certificate for other musical equipment and $1,000 toward private guitar lessons.

"Awesome,'' is how the recipient responded to it all.

It's how she has responded to the unexpected challenges that life has thrown her that has everyone else talking.

Last January she started to complain about a few headaches and fatigue, and then one day told her parents she had fainted. It was right to the doctor and on Jan. 26 came the diagnosis: Aplastic anemia.

For every challenge that has followed the diagnosis -- such as chemotherapy and radiation -- she has added a bead to her "Beads of Courage'' necklace. It is now 14 feet and 4 inches long, said her parents, Marilyn and Brian Lohse of Raymond.

They're part of a family support team that includes sisters Khia, 17, a senior at MACCRAY, and Brianna, 22, a senior at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

Aplastic anemia is a disease in which the bone marrow stops producing blood cells. The best treatment is a bone marrow transplant, if a suitable donor can be found.

Her sister Khia matched up perfectly and the transplant took place at the University of Minnesota, Fairview Hospital on March 24.

It required that Kim undergo chemotherapy and radiation and confinement in a special room at the hospital to protect against infection.

After she recovered from all of that, she was stricken by a bout of post-transplant cancer that required another round of chemotherapy. She's had a few other bumps along the road, but her parents said she has kept her resolve and spirit through it all.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation offers young people facing life-threatening diseases with their wish. Lohse said she'd love nothing more than the guitar she now holds.

Her family was surprised she didn't want a trip to some place special, Kristi Seehafer, representing Make-A-Wish Minnesota told the students at MACCRAY.

Kim told her parents that a trip is only a moment's memory. A guitar would be forever.

Marilyn is a fourth-grade instructor at the MACCRAY East Elementary in Raymond. Brian is the postmaster in Renville.

They've spent many long hours on the road bringing their daughter to medical care in the Twin Cities, and Brian has stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for weeks to be with his daughter during her hospital stays.

They credit community support with helping them. A community fundraiser has helped with the ever-mounting expenses that come with it all. The helping hands and words of encouragement have been nothing short of "wonderful,'' said the two parents.

They said their daughter is gaining back her strength and health and attending school part time. No doubt, she's also looking forward to the opportunity to stand before an audience with the guitar in hand, only the next time as a rock musician.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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