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5-year-old Blye is leaving on a jet plane PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Lee   

The orange shirts can still be seen on people around town, Blye is happy as ever, and his parents are counting down the days.

The “quest” the McCallum family set out for will become a reality in just under two weeks.

Blye McCallum, along with parents Gary and Andrea and grandparents Paul and Sheila Gift, are scheduled to fly out of Denver Tuesday, Feb. 1 on their way to Germany for Blye’s stem cell implantation by lumbar puncture treatment.

The main treatment will take place Thursday, Feb. 10—a day the McCallums hope Holyoke will show support by wearing their orange Blye’s Quest shirts.

The McCallums are planning to don their orange shirts the day of their departure. “We’re going to look like a bunch of pumpkins,” Andrea said. Interestingly enough, the shuttle company that will meet them at the airport and help them get around wears orange uniforms. Andrea said she told Blye that is just another sign the trip is meant to be.

Blye McCallum will be joined by his parents Gary and Andrea Feb. 1
on a trip to Düsseldorf, Germany for a stem cell implantation treatment.
Andrea’s parents Paul and Sheila Gift will also travel with the family.  
—Enterprise file photo

Their flight will take them directly from Denver to Frankfurt, Germany where they will have a slight layover before boarding a plane for Düsseldorf, Germany.

Blye’s initial assessment is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 7 where an introduction will be conducted along with the anesthesia consultation.

The next day, Blye and family will meet with his treating physician to discuss details of the treatment, take pre-treatment blood tests and have bone marrow collected. Andrea said the collection will come from Blye’s hip.

Doctors will then spend Wednesday preparing the sample and determining if another needs to be taken. If not, Blye will be ready for his treatment Thursday.

The actual treatment will take place by implanting stem cells in Blye’s back between lumbar vertebrae L4 and L5.

The injected fluid circulates up the spinal canal and throughout the brain. Before the injection, the doctor will insert a spinal needle and remove 4-8 milliliters of spinal fluid which is mixed with the stem cell solution.

After the injection, Blye will lie down in the recovery room for a few hours to allow the stem cells to migrate throughout the spinal canal and brain.

Blye’s parents will be by his side the entire trip to keep him comfortable. Andrea said Blye knows something is going to happen but he doesn’t know exactly what the process will consist of.

One of the nice things about the treatment is it is an out-patient procedure so Blye won’t have to spend any of the nights in the hospital.

Andrea said their hotel room is connected to her parents’ which will help Blye feel a little more at home.

Andrea recently took Blye to Denver for an MRI and drove down Tower Road near the airport so he could see planes flying in and out of DIA. “He was so excited,” Andrea said. “I had been telling him about the airplanes, but it wasn’t until we came home from the MRI that I really did understand he knew he was going to be on one of those planes.”

A family friend recently sent Blye a small airplane and Andrea said they have been talking to him about the upcoming trip.

An incentive for completing the procedure and getting through everything is “the biggest chocolate bar he has ever seen,” Andrea said.

Once returning to the United States Feb. 15, Blye will undergo different types of therapy. One type will be immersion therapy in Denver, which takes a lot of hard work, Andrea said. Blye will attend therapy five hours a day for five straight days. “If we put in this much work and do this, we will see a result from it,” Andrea said.

Blye’s mom said the school and his teachers have been great to work with, seeing how Blye will be gone for two weeks and then attending therapy sessions once getting home.

Even though Blye’s family is excited and anxious to see what will come after the process, there are still jitters and some uneasiness leading into the trip. One thing Andrea is concerned about is the facility where the treatment will be done.

She said the photos appear to portray it as a modern “white and plain” hospital, unlike Children’s Hospital where Blye is comfortable. They hope to take some toys and his blanket to help comfort him.

Leading up to the trip, Andrea said they are excited to get going. They are looking forward to the flight but a little worried about all the smaller pieces once arriving.

After Blye’s benefit, Andrea said she was relaxed and Gary was a little nervous. But now, she said, things have flip-flopped. “I feel like my head is spinning half the time,” Andrea said.

A big factor will be the small support group traveling with them. “My parents are awesome,” Andrea said. “I’m so glad they are going with us.”

Everyone is also excited and anxious to see what will be different after the procedure.

“This could pull him into a different realm,” Andrea said. “If it could unlock his speech or if it could just relax a muscle or make it easier to reach for something, it was worth it all in the end.”

Community comes together for youngster

Gary and Andrea find it hard to come up with words to express their appreciation when thinking about the support the community provided during Blye’s benefit. Over 700 people packed the Event Center to show support for Blye Friday, Nov. 12.

In addition to the benefit, 6,484.4 bushels of grain were donated on behalf of the little guy who has stolen the hearts of many in the community.

Andrea said the generous community support will allow Blye to go back for additional treatment, if interested, in the future.

She mentioned walking back into the Event Center automatically makes them relive the night of the benefit and reminds them how loved their family is.

“To know we are leaving with that much support behind us just makes it worth it,” Andrea said. “Everyone is so behind us and rooting for us and wanting this to happen for us. We have a whole town behind us.”

Andrea said they will update Blye’s blog almost every day to keep Holyoke supporters up-to-date on the trip. Visit over the two-week period to keep up on Blye’s progress.

“I don’t chalk it all up to just medicine,” Blye’s mom said. “I think with enough prayer and support, something will happen. I believe in miracles, I really do, and I think God allows them to happen. I’m hoping he has one for Blye.”