From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

July 30, 2021

Watching Brant Karrick teach his music students at Northern Kentucky University (NKU), one would never know that he suffered from both Hodgkin’s lymphoma and MDS, a bone marrow disorder. During one of his final Ensemble Chamber Winds courses of the 2020-21 school year, he injects energy into the session by moving about the stage in Greaves Concert Hall, transitioning from pianist, to instructor, to conductor. He’s quick to offer guidance when someone is out of tune and he challenges his students to critique their classmates. When guiding his aspiring conductors, he creates a vision of how he wants the music to sound, beating time with gestures, eye movements, and a sort of dance behind the podium—leaning in with his torso or rising on his toes.

Brant hasn’t let his physical health stop him. He’s been a teacher for 37 years and the Director of Bands at NKU since the fall of 2003. In 2014, he suffered with night sweats and a persistent low platelet count. “I barely nicked myself shaving and the bleeding wouldn’t stop,” said Brant. “I was conducting an ensemble with blood dripping down my face.” His physician at St. Elizabeth in Kentucky diagnosed him with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. He would undergo six months of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, it was this treatment that most likely made him vulnerable for MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) in 2017. MDS is a type of cancer that affects the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. Brant’s physician referred him to OHC’s James H. Essell, MD, and noted that Dr. Essell was one of the best in the country to treat the condition.

“After evaluating Brant, I recommended he receive a bone marrow transplant and I began to look for a donor,” said Dr. Essell, a medical oncologist, hematologist, blood and marrow transplant specialist, and cellular therapy expert. To prepare his body for the transplant, Brant had four consecutive rounds of chemotherapy. “I did a lot of research on the treatments, and I always had faith in Dr. Essell,” said Brant. He refers to Dr. Essell as a “double threat” because he was a pharmacist prior to becoming a doctor. “He knows medicines and he knows cancer,” said Brant.

Brant was in the hospital for two weeks following his transplant. “We monitor transplant patients closely with daily blood tests to observe counts and successful engraftment,” said Dr. Essell. Engraftment occurs when the donor stem cells infused into the patient multiply and begin to make new, healthy blood cells.

Transplant recovery wasn’t easy. “I had bad mouth sores and my skin was itching and burning like I’d been in the sun for 12 hours straight,” described Brant. “Between OHC and my family, I had a lot of support. I knew I could call Dr. Essell and get in right away if I had any issues.” Brant, who resides in Covington, KY with his wife, Carole, noted that the long trip to OHC could be taxing. “I relied on my wife, Carole, my 88-year-old mother, and my brother, Guy, to drive me,” he said. “Dr. Essell wouldn’t let me go without frequent assessments. I knew he would catch everything. He knew when my magnesium levels were low and he treated me to prevent the BK virus.” BK virus is a virus most people get during childhood and it remains latent in their bodies. It is a common complication for transplant patients.

This year, Brant has been able to taper off many of his medications and he continues to see Dr. Essell every eight weeks. Eventually, he will receive his childhood vaccinations to make sure he is protected from preventable infections and diseases.

When asked if he has advice for anyone fighting a serious illness, Brant responded, “I think Dr. Essell would agree with me when I say, ‘Trust the science.’ You have to count on a lot of people to do things for you that you once did for yourself. My wife was my primary caregiver, and her physical and emotional support was paramount to my recovery. She took time away from her job and stayed with me in the hospital long into the wee hours of the evening. A close colleague at NKU helped monitor my classes.”

Brant invited OHC to observe him teaching one of his remaining courses of the school year. As a result of COVID, he had spent much of the school year teaching from home and all performances were cancelled. It was obvious that the maestro and the students alike were happy to be rehearsing together. At one moment, Brant paused the class to announce that he was looking to buy a Challenger 6.4L. “With 500 horses, that baby will go 200,” Brant tells his class. One student asked, “Manual or automatic, Dr. Karrick?” Brant shouted, “Manual all the way!” It’s going to take a lot to slow Brant Karrick down.

To watch a video of Brant teaching class, follow this link: To learn more about OHC’s cellular therapy experts or to request a second opinion, visit or call 1-888-649-4800.

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