Four-year-old battles leukemia |

Four-year-old battles leukemia

April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” Before Jan. 3, the Tigert family’s life was fast-paced, but normal.

Ben and Lydia Tigert, of Parachute, were busy raising four kids ” two boys 19 months apart and 8-year-old twin girls.

There were sibling spats between the twins over who would wear the pink shirt, and who would wear the orange one.

There were sessions with the speech therapist in Grand Junction for three out of the four kids.

And there were the routine doctor visits for sinus and ear infections common for kids during winter months in Colorado.

But on Jan. 3, life for the Tigerts became not-so-normal.

In the course of 24 hours, the family’s youngest child ” 4-year-old Isaac ” was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Jan. 3 started out as a fairly normal day for Lydia and her kids.

Cassie, one of the twins ” who Ben and Lydia recently gained custody of after their mother died a year ago in Texas ” had an ear infection.

Lydia brought Isaac along to the doctor visit that day. He had been looking a little pale, and had a few bloody noses that wouldn’t stop.

“I happened to ask the doctor if he looked pale,” Lydia said. “She noticed he had petechia, these little red spots in his chest area.”

Petechia can be a sign of low blood platelet counts. Tests were ordered immediately.

After the blood work, Lydia and the kids left to run some errands and go to the speech therapist. They would return to the doctor the same day so Callie, Cassie’s twin, could get her flu shot.

“As I was walking out, the doctor caught me,” said Lydia, fighting back tears. “She pulled me into a room and told me the news. Coming out of the doctor’s office, it was like, ‘What do you do?'”

The petechia had been a red flag that Isaac’s red blood cells were breaking down, Lydia said. Isaac would need to go to Denver the next morning to receive pediatric oncology care.

But, soon after, the doctor called. Isaac had to fly out that night. Only one parent could accompany him, so Lydia went along while Ben drove.

“They didn’t want Isaac driving over the pass because of the oxygen ” and his levels were so low,” Lydia said. “He had a high fever, 103.”

Lydia and Isaac took a private jet, leaving from the St. Mary’s Hospital hangar, to Centennial. They arrived within an hour. Once there, an ambulance escorted mother and son to The Children’s Hospital in Denver.

“They had his room ready,” Lydia said. “They did blood work, got his IV going. That night he had a platelet transfusion and two blood transfusions.”

The Tigerts were informed that acute lymphoblastic leukemia ” most common in young children ” has an 85 percent cure rate. That didn’t exactly put Lydia’s mind at ease.

“I always think about the other 15 percent,” she said, crying. “But he’s a strong little boy.”

Isaac began chemotherapy treatments on Jan. 6 ” just three days after his diagnosis.

He’s at home now, but must make the road trip to Denver when needed. Friday morning, he underwent a bone marrow aspiration ” a biopsy that involves the removal of a small amount of marrow to be tested.

“They wanted to see how the chemo’s working,” Lydia said. “Right now he’s in a phase called induction (therapy), where they’re trying to get him into remission. They’re deciding if he needs a different kind of treatment.”

The drugs have caused Isaac to put on a little weight. He’s gained about 5 pounds since starting chemotherapy.

“He wants two of everything,” Lydia said.

A quiet preschooler, Isaac doesn’t say much about his disease. He mostly complains of an upset stomach, or just wants to lie down to rest.

“(At the hospital) he wouldn’t talk to anybody, not even his daddy,” Lydia said. “At first, he would only whisper to me, but he was always using his manners, saying, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ He’s my quiet child ” he goes with the flow.”

At home, Isaac’s short-haired tabby cat, Belle, makes him smile.

“She lets Isaac carry her around under his arm,” Lydia said.

He likes to watch Sponge Bob and Curious George cartoons and play with the Superman toys his dad bought him when he was first hospitalized.

Isaac doesn’t care much for doctors, nurses or needles.

But he loves his mom with tender devotion.

Lydia was as shocked as anyone to hear the news of her son’s cancer.

“He’s actually our healthiest child,” she said. “He’d have an occasional sinus infection.”

Lydia is a working mother who’s been employed at the Hot Springs Pool off and on for six years. She took time off to have her two sons, Isaac and 6-year-old Isaiah. Ben has worked for Waste Management for the past six years. Last May, the couple bought a house in Parachute to accommodate their large family.

“I work mostly nights,” Lydia said. “”Everybody knows the boys at the pool.”

Isaac’s diagnosis was quick ” Saturday marked the one-month anniversary. His medical expenses are emerging just as fast.

That reality prompted the couple’s employers to come together with the community for a benefit dinner from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday at the Hot Springs Deli. All proceeds will be deposited into Isaac’s benefit fund at American National Bank.

“The whole pool family, we just pull together and try to support Lydia how we can,” said Trish Pickett, Hot Springs head cashier and Lydia’s supervisor. “Basically, she’s part of our family. Our heart goes out to her ” we wanted to do this to help them out.”

Like Isaac’s family, Pickett just wants to see a happy ending to a life-altering story that’s unfolded over the course of a month.

“He’s just a typical 4-year-old,” Pickett said. “Very sweet, very quiet.”

And whose life changed forever on Jan. 3.

Contact April Clark: 945-8515, ext. 16601

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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