|McCallums focus on life's blessings|
|Written by Jes-c Brandt|
From preschool teachers to grocery store clerks, people all around Holyoke have fallen in love with the infectious smile of Blye McCallum. He’s ornery, said his mom Andrea McCallum, but he’s a delight.
Blye is being honored this year by the Living to Give V Campaign. Partnering with The Children’s Hospital, they will have a blood drive July 25. Accepting the honor, said Andrea, is one way to give back to the doctors and nurses that did so much for them at The Children’s Hospital. It’s a great hospital, and Blye’s family is grateful for all they’ve done.
A rough start
Now a healthy and lively 4-year-old, Blye was not always so lucky. Blye was born at Melissa Memorial Hospital April 26, 2005, but was there only four hours before Flight for Life took him to The Children’s Hospital. There they found he had a subdural hematoma and a subgaleal hematoma. As a result, Blye was experiencing seizures, and in order to stop them, he was given phenobarbital.
Once given the phenobarbital, they knew he would be in the hospital for at least two weeks for it to be administered. Besides an expected release date, Gary and Andrea really didn’t know what to expect for their son’s future.
Fortunately the treatment was effective, and the family was able to return home two weeks after Blye was born. Doctors warned there could be problems in the future, but at that point Andrea said they were focusing on their current victory.
Four months into his life, however, Blye began to experience problems. He got very sick, and his parents took him back to The Children’s Hospital, where he stayed for a week. During his second stay, Blye was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. While there were no signs of CP in his initial CT scans, Andrea shared it is not uncommon for it to be diagnosed later.
Right away Andrea and Gary began researching and meeting with metabolic specialists. After a battery of tests, it was confirmed Blye had no other disorders, news that came as a huge relief to the family. “At that point,” said Andrea, “we decided that whatever came our way, we’d meet it head on.”
It was that attitude of determination, combined with immeasurable support from friends and family that got Blye and his parents through that first year. It was a tough year, recalled Andrea. There was a Failure to Thrive diagnosis, and Blye remained small. “He’s tough though,” said Andrea, with a smile, “and he made it through.”
Living life to the fullest now
Andrea said simply, “four years later, we’re still going along.” Blye’s grown physically, but more noticeable is the development of his fun and playful personality. “He’s just like any other 4-year-old,” shared Andrea. “He’s just trapped in a body that won’t cooperate.”
Blye makes do with what he’s been given, though. While he can’t speak, communication is no problem. “His eyes will tell you what he can’t,” said his mother, Blye flashing a smile in agreement. He can tell you if he wants a drink or supper, if he’s happy or sad, or whether he agrees or disagrees just by looking at you.
Where the family was met with uncertainty and nervousness in the first moments of Blye’s life, they now have routine and a higher level of predictability. They know, for example, that Blye will find great joy in playing with his puppy, Sady, or reading a book. Once a week they have physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Monthly visits to The Children’s Hospital are still a part of Blye’s life, where he sees his rehab specialist and neurologist, but these visits are nothing like the frightening stays earlier in his life. And whenever Blye has friends at the hospital, they are sure to visit, said Andrea.
Blye is living life like there is nothing out of the ordinary, and that’s how his parents want people to see him. He’s a kid that loves ice cream and the movie “Cars.” He went to preschool and loved it, and he’s just trying to be himself. “We want him to be included,” noted Andrea. “We don’t want him to be treated like a handicapped child or for people to be scared of him.”
As Blye gets older, the family is doing their best to provide him with the tools to communicate. They plan to get an electric wheelchair soon and a device called the DynaVox eye gaze system. While Blye is already speaking volumes through his eyes, the DynaVox will allow him to communicate even more precisely.
So much has happened since Blye was diagnosed with CP, but Andrea shared she will never forget the support she and her family had when Blye was born. Family dropped everything to be in Denver to support Gary and Andrea. Everyone really stepped up, she shared, and it would have been very difficult without friends and family during those trying times.
“It’s cool to be able to rely on people,” said Andrea, remembering all those who have been supportive to them. “We knew they would help when we needed anything.”
Of all the people Gary and Andrea are thankful for, they are most thankful for their beautiful son. “We have had struggles, and will continue to have struggles, but you just look at him and it’s worth it,” said a very proud mother, searching for the words to describe just how great her son is.
Despite the hardships, they are focused on how good they have it. Of all the things that could have gone wrong, Andrea said, without hesitation, they don’t think they have such a bad deal. “We’re really glad this is all we have.” Aside from that first year, he’s basically a regular kid, and one year isn’t long at all in the grand scheme of things.
Blye is loving life, and his parents are loving their time with him. This summer he’ll be spending his time doing what he loves: playing and charming all his adoring fans with his bright eyes and adorable smile.
Living to Give honors Blye
Blye McCallum has been chosen as this year’s child to be honored by the Living to Give Campaign. Each year a blood drive is held in memory of Derek Dirks who died July 8, 2004 at the age of 38 of hemochromatosis, a rare blood disease. Organizers hope to honor those who have been affected by blood diseases, raise awareness and collect blood for others who are in need of transfusions.
Living to Give V will be held Saturday, July 25, 8 a.m.-noon. The Children’s Hospital Blood Center’s Blood Donor Mobile will be located at the Phillips County Courthouse. Those who wish to donate should stop by the Flower Garden to reserve a time.
Children’s Hospital relies on blood donations
Every year at The Children’s Hospital, 8,000 units of blood products are transfused into sick and injured infants, children and teens. Without this blood, many of the lifesaving procedures performed at The Children’s Hospital would not be possible. Donated blood gives these children a better chance for a healthy life.
The Children’s Hospital is partnering with Living to Give to take life saving blood donations from those who give.
Those who may be eligible are those who:
— are in good health
— have not donated blood in the last 56 days
— are symptom free of a cold or flu
— are at least 18 years of age, or 17 with written parental consent
— weigh at least 110 pounds
— have not delivered a baby in the last six weeks
— have no history of HIV/AIDS
— have not had any tattoos or body piercings within the last year
— have not traveled to a malaria risk area within the last year
— answered a series of medical history/lifestyle questions to determine eligibility