Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Boy returns from blood disorder treatment
By Airan Scruby, Staff Writer
Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger
PICO RIVERA - After more than five months of intense medical treatment in Minnesota for a rare blood disorder, 11-year-old Gregory Ramsey is back home.
Gregory received a hero's welcome at Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday night. Gregory and his mother, Mary Ramsey, were greeted by his grandmother and rode home in a limousine donated for the night. The family was escorted by sheriff's Pico Rivera Station deputies to meet extended family members and a house decorated for Gregory's return.
"It's been a long time since I've seen him smile so much," Mary Ramsey said.
According to sheriff's Lt. Joe Chavez, Capt. Michael Rothans asked him to organize the escort after reading about the family in the newspaper. The deputies who participated in the escort volunteered their time Saturday night.
"Here's a little boy fighting for his life, and Capt. Rothans felt compelled to do something," Chavez said. "Just bringing him home like the hero that he is, it's worth it."
Although his medical treatment is far from over, Gregory is now recovering from a bone marrow transplant received in December for his Fanconi anemia, which can cause heavy bruising, a weakened immune system and, if untreated, is fatal.
To receive the transplant, chemotherapy and other care from doctors who specialize in the disease, Gregory, along with his parents and younger brother Christopher, traveled to Minnesota and lived at the Ronald McDonald House near University of Minnesota Children's Hospital.
The family was allowed to return home when Gregory's blood tests and other indicators showed his body was initially accepting the new bone marrow and producing enough white blood cells.
"He came home and yesterday he was playing piano," Mary Ramsey said.
She said the homecoming has meant adjusting to life away from the hospital, and preparing for more treatment at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.
"Things are going relatively well," Ramsey said. "But we're not out of the woods yet."
Gregory will have to return to Minnesota in June for a checkup and will continue to have weekly appointments with a local doctor. His body is especially susceptible to infection in the year following his transplant, but he will continue regular meetings with his Minnesota medical team for five years.
Although he will not be able to return to school this year because of his weakened immune system, his brother will go back to Brethren Christian School next week.
His parents will return to work and family members will share the task of taking Gregory to doctor's appointments and supervising his home schooling.
Gregory's father, Darren Ramsey, and his 8-year-old brother returning home by car, and hope to make it back to Pico Rivera by Wednesday or Thursday.
"We're somewhere in Nebraska," Darren Ramsey said Monday. According to him, leaving the supervision of the hospital is frightening but exciting.
"It was scary leaving Ronald McDonald House, but at the same time it was a happy thing," Ramsey said. "I just want to go home."
While the family has been in Minnesota for Gregory's treatment, friends at home have organized fundraisers for an expected $80,000 in medical and travel expenses, above what insurance will cover.
Lezli Brown, a teacher at the boys' school and family friend, said students at the school raised more than $800 in a penny drive, and a local church collected more than $400 for the family.
A pancake breakfast was also held and an ice cream sale and raffle is scheduled at Mary Ramsey's office.
"There's an ongoing need to help pay those medical bills," Brown said.
For information on the Ramsey family, to leave them a message or to donate, go to cota.org
(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029