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McCallums are looking forward to see what the future holds PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Lee   

A jet lagged family touched down at DIA in Denver just over three weeks ago. They were coming back from an exhausting trip to Germany—one the whole town of Holyoke helped them take.

Gary and Andrea McCallum spent the first two weeks of February in Düsseldorf, Germany with their 5-year-old son Blye. Andrea’s parents, Paul and Sheila Gift, traveled with the family to help in any way they could.

Blye received a stem cell treatment Thursday, Feb. 10 at the XCell-Center in Düsseldorf. The day of the actual treatment was emotionally draining for the entire family. Even the days leading up to the procedure were draining.

Andrea said the initial consultation was a little scary. The McCallums weren’t a big fan of the first doctor they met with. After visiting with him they became worried and began to wonder what they had gotten themselves into. But, all was saved after meeting with Blye’s second doctor. “He was awesome,” Andrea said.

The original procedure called for stem cell implantation by lumbar puncture. After the initial consultation, they learned Blye would receive the cells through an IV. This method would prove to be much easier and far less painful.

Andrea said the lumbar puncture procedure was undergoing research so they pulled the procedure but implemented the IV route. After speaking with their doctor, they felt very comfortable with the new plan and weren’t worried at all.

Two days before the treatment, cells needed to be removed from Blye and processed. The area in which the sample was taken was too small so only one parent would be able to be by Blye’s side. A quick game of rock, paper, scissors left Gary in charge.

For the actual implantation day, both parents were by their son’s side.

Blye was given an IV the day before the procedure and somehow had to keep it in until the next day. The task would be easy had Blye been staying at the hospital, but he wasn’t. He was staying with his parents at their hotel.

A thick fashion magazine attached to Blye’s arm with an Ace bandage became a makeshift splint to help keep the IV in during the night. “He did awesome with it,” Andrea said.

Blye was among 10 other people at the XCell-Center undergoing similar treatments. The McCallums said this helped them relax and get through the event together. They got to know the parents of other patients, which helped them tremendously.


Therapy to help stimulate cells in Blye’s brain

The Holyoke community came together during Blye’s benefit Friday, Nov. 12 to help the family live out their dream. Donations from the community, money from auctions and other funds helped send Blye to Germany to give him a chance to improve his quality of life.

So after the procedure, have the McCallums seen an improvement? Have there been changes? Gary and Andrea said people have been asking them about Blye since the day they returned.

From the beginning, they knew they wouldn’t see a drastic change right off the bat. It’s the little things they look for.

“We’ve started to see some things,” Andrea said. “He seems to be a lot more relaxed all over. And for him that’s huge.”

The Tuesday after they returned, Blye attended the basketball games in Holyoke and sat still the entire time—something the McCallums said wouldn’t have happened prior to the trip. Andrea said her son seems more relaxed and focused instead of “all over the place.”

Because they spend so much time with Blye, Andrea said they have been second guessing themselves a lot. “Did he do that before we left?” they ask each other a lot.

“I hope people understand that this wasn’t meant to ‘fix’ him,” Andrea said. “We knew this wasn’t going to be a fix all.”

To help Blye improve and maximize the benefits, he will undergo special therapy three days a week in Denver this month. The sessions involve stimulations that help stimulate the cells in his brain. Following the three-day-a-week therapy, he will attend a five-day therapy session in Denver.

Therapy will be done five hours a day each day, which will really take a toll on the youngster. Andrea said the last time Blye underwent this type of therapy, he could communicate yes and no much easier.

Hopes are the continuing therapy will help Blye more and more.

Repeat trips to Germany are an option for Blye. The McCallums aren’t sure if or when they will go back but aren’t ruling it out.


Family enjoys time in Germany

One of Blye’s main directives was to relax during the trip to ensure the treatment went smoothly. And relax he did. The McCallums and Gifts ventured out into the city before and after the treatment took place.

Blye was a huge fan of the train system which became the main mode of transportation for the group while they were there. There was a hub or station right outside of their hotel which made things easy.

They did a lot of sightseeing and even took the train out of the city into the “country” looking at the landscape along the way.

Grocery shopping also became something they enjoyed doing. Instead of going out to eat all the time, they went to the store to buy groceries so they could eat in their room.

Shopping in a foreign city posed some challenges but they managed OK.

Of course, they had to try some of the local flavor. One particular restaurant was a very nice Italian one. They used the occasion to celebrate the trip. After finishing they realized that maybe it wasn’t a place for children. Blye had done a number to the table cloth, according to his mom, but the staff of the restaurant didn’t mind.

They also ate atop the Rhine Tower. The restaurant rotates much like the Space Needle in Seattle, Wash.

The McCallums met numerous people during their trip—all of whom helped in some way or another. Whether it was helping with the large amount of luggage, directions or just a friendly hello, the McCallums appreciated everyone they came into contact with.

To learn more about the trip and an outline of each day, visit Blye’s blog at www.blyes