Bryce's Flight Crew
Welcome to Bryce's team!!! We have created this page for anyone who would like to help. This is a way to both fundraise for Rady's as well as raise awareness for Leukemia on Bryce's behalf. Below are options on how you can help.
To make a donation to Rady Children's Hospital in the name of BRYCE'S FLIGHT CREW please click on the DONATE button on this page.
The 2018 tournament season had just ended for the San Marcos High School Knight Regiment Marching Band the weekend before. The kids had a great season and were now returning to their normal school schedules. Like a lot of the kids, Bryce came home each day after school, did his homework, ate dinner, and passed out.
By chance, we had scheduled an annual wellness visit for Bryce that Friday, November 9th. In the car ride to the appointment, Bryce mentioned that he had a blurry spot in the center of his vision in his left eye that he said had started that day. We figured the pediatrician could take a look.
During the visit, the doctor asked Bryce how he was feeling. Bryce said that he was feeling a little run down, so the doctor had his finger pricked to test the iron in his blood. The test determined that Bryce was anemic. Surprised by this, the doctor sent Bryce for a full blood test, noting that this was something we couldn't ignore. Not a fun experience for Bryce - he hates needles! The doctor said to call him on Saturday to get the results. He also recommended that we take Bryce to an ophthalmologist to follow up on the eye issues.
The rest of the day and evening were pretty normal. Pizza for dinner. Bryce was barely able to stay awake, so we dragged him off to bed.
The phones started ringing at 1am. All of them - the house phone, both our cell phones. Like a lot of people, we figured someone had gotten a hold of our phone numbers and were crank calling us, so we decided not to answer. Like a lot of people, we believed that if it was important, they would leave a message. After about a half hour, the calls stopped, and we figured it was over. No voicemail messages had been left.
At 2am, the doorbell rang. Something was definitely happening but we didn't know what, and it couldn't be good. When we looked out the window, there was a Carlsbad Police Officer at the door! We opened the door and the officer asked if we had a son named Bryce. We were confused - we had just dragged him to bed a few hours earlier. Why was the officer asking us about Bryce? Then the officer told us that a doctor had been trying to reach us, that it was urgent, and he gave us the number to call.
Our hands were trembling when we reached Bryce's pediatrician on the phone. The pathologist that read Bryce's blood test was alarmed and reached out to the pediatrician in the middle of the night. Bryce's white blood cell count came back at 700,000, and that normal was 5,000 to 10,000. Effectively, Bryce’s white blood cell count was 100 times higher than normal! The pediatrician had consulted with the Oncology Unit at Rady Children's Hospital, and they determined that Bryce needed to get to the hospital immediately. He said that the Rady Children's ER would be expecting us. They suspected Bryce had Leukemia.
We rushed to get ourselves together. We called Dave's Mom to come over and be at the house with Cameron while we took Bryce to the hospital. Just as we were about to get Bryce up, he was walking down the hall towards us, saying that he didn't feel good. We knew why. On the ride to the hospital, we explained what was going on. None of us could quite get our heads around what was happening as we barreled down the 5 freeway to the emergency room.
At 3am we arrived at the ER and they were indeed waiting for us. He was hooked up to machines, blood drawn, tests conducted. At 7am, it was confirmed - Bryce had Leukemia - though more tests would be required to determine what type. The next stop was the ICU to run more tests and stabilize his condition. The concern was that his system was so overrun with Leukemia cells that his body was not able to make enough of the "good" blood cells, and that might start to damage his organs.
There was another problem. Chemotherapy was going to be required, but the chemotherapy would kill off the Leukemia cells quickly, and that large volume of dead cells suddenly introduced into his system might damage Bryce's kidneys. They were going to have to perform a procedure called leukocytapheresis which would remove the excess of white blood cells through a process akin to filtering the blood. The machine to perform this procedure needed a special technician, and the only technician available that Saturday was in LA. Of course, Southern California traffic was bad, and it was agonizing waiting for her.
In the meantime, the doctors performed a lumbar puncture to see if the cancer had made it into his spinal fluid, while also introducing chemotherapy drugs in case it had. They performed a bone marrow biopsy to see the extent to which the cancer was in his bone marrow. And, to get Bryce hooked up to the machine that would filter the cells out of his blood, they had to insert a line into the vein in his neck. The technician finally showed up around 7pm, and by about 11pm, the procedure was over, and a plastic bag roughly the size of a small loaf of bread was filled with white blood cells from Bryce.
By the end of the day Saturday, we were all dazed, not believing where we were or what had happened. Vicki stayed at the hospital that night and Dave went home to be with Cameron. Bryce was getting used to the idea of needles.
On Sunday, the good news was that the procedure had removed a substantial amount of white blood cells. The count was now down to 400k. But the count needed to be lower to start chemotherapy, so the procedure was performed again. By Sunday afternoon, the white blood cell counts were low enough to start chemotherapy, though we still didn't know what type of Leukemia it was.
Late that afternoon, we found out. The official diagnosis: B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). If there was any "good news" in that diagnosis, it was that this type of Leukemia is the most common in children, so the treatment protocols were well understood. It was also determined that the Leukemia was likely the cause of hemorrhaging in his retinas, which was causing his blurred vision.
What followed the diagnosis was two hours of discussion of the treatment protocol. The amazing and patient Oncology doctors walked us step by step through the treatment plan, consents, and information about what to expect. In a nutshell, Bryce was starting his chemotherapy the next day (Monday), would be in the hospital for about a month for the first phase, would be in mostly outpatient treatment for the following 8 months, and would not be allowed to go back to school because his immune system would be compromised during this time. During the outpatient phase, there would be times when he would need to be admitted to the hospital. We would have to make sure he did not get sick, that he stayed away from sick people, that a fever would be a very serious thing. We would have to monitor myriad side effects at home, and make sure he took his medications on schedule.
By the end of the day Sunday, not even 48 hours in, our world was turned upside down. What did the future hold for Bryce? What about his plans, the school year, his life? How would he, and we, deal with this?
Bryce would spend 32 days in the hospital for his first phase of treatment - the first few days in the ICU, and then once he was stabilized, moved to the Hematology/Oncology unit at Rady Children's Hospital. During this time, Bryce tolerated the treatment as well as could be expected. We would alternate nights at the hospital so one of us could always be with him. We celebrated Thanksgiving in the hospital, and we made use of the Ronald McDonald House, which is such a critical resource for families going through this type of trauma. On December 10th, the first phase of his chemotherapy treatment was done and he came home.
During his time in the hospital, Bryce was screened to be part of a clinical study on a drug that was being tested for his particular type of Leukemia. The hope is that the drug improves outcomes beyond the standard therapy. We were extremely happy that he was accepted into the clinical study, and the drug would become part of his treatment plan. Bryce was especially happy knowing that he would be contributing to something that might improve treatment for kids in the future.
It was also during this time that we figured out how Bryce would finish his 10th grade year of high school. After considering the options and discussing with his high school counselor, we decided the best path forward was an online Charter School. He could do the work from home while getting support from live teachers, and he would be able to minimize the amount of time outside of the house for things like exams.
Bryce started the second phase of his chemotherapy on December 19th and is expected to complete this phase by the end of February. We've been able to settle into a "new normal". Vicki handles clinic visits and medications at home. We've become compulsive hand washers and installed hand sanitizers and air purifiers throughout the house, and we wear masks around the house if we're feeling sick. The only setback suffered so far was a delay in the middle of this phase because Bryce's immune system had not recovered enough to continue, so he had to wait about a week and a half before continuing treatment. We just have to go with it. As of now, Bryce is doing well, and we're grateful.
What does the future hold from here? We hope that Bryce's treatment will be done sometime in the summer. We hope that Bryce can re-enroll at San Marcos High School in the fall. We know that Bryce really wants to be in Marching Band in the fall. We know that once Bryce is done with his initial 8 month treatment, he will have to be on monthly maintenance chemotherapy treatments for two and a half years. Beyond that, we're taking it day by day.
We know that we could not have gotten through this without the amazing doctors, nurses, social workers, staff, parent liaisons, and volunteers at Rady Children's Hospital. We have a tremendous resource here in San Diego, a resource that parents hope they never have to get to know.
Finally, we know that we have terrific friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances. Thank you for all of your cards, letters, gifts, support, well wishes, and prayers. It's overwhelming, the amount of support you've all given Bryce and our family. More than you know, we truly appreciate it! Thank you!
We’ll keep you posted on his progress as he travels down this long road. Please continue to keep him in your thoughts.
Vicki & Dave Dhunjishaw
"All donations collected through this page will benefit the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children's Hospital - San Diego"