Keian’s battle: Family touched by outpouring of support for sick son
Chantal Blundell and her son Keian have a popcorn fight at BC Children's Hospital. Keian has been battling an aggressive form of leukemia since July 2012 and has since relapsed twice. Aug. 19, 2013 (Oh Love Photography)
Published Monday, August 19, 2013 3:34PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, August 19, 2013 3:59PM PDT
At six years old, Keian Blundell has already lived through things most people never dream of experiencing in their lifetime.
Last July, the energetic, gregarious Langley boy accompanied his parents to the hospital. His mother was experiencing complications from the caesarean-section birth of Keian’s baby brother, Joren, weeks earlier.
Doctors also thought Joren had a heart murmur.
That ended up not being the case. Instead, it was Keian whose health started to show signs of deterioration that day.
“He seemed to be sick and he was throwing up a lot,” his father Ryan Blundell said. “We took him to various doctors that said he had an ear infection, throat infection…nobody delved into it too much.”
When fingertip-sized bruising suddenly started to cover Keian’s legs, front and back, the Blundells knew it wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill infection.
They took their son in for blood work and other various tests, and at 5 p.m. on July 10, 2012, a doctor confirmed the Blundell’s worst fears: Keian had leukemia.
"Keian has been a trooper through all of this"
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow of its host, making them extremely prone to infections.
The family turned to radiation therapy, and at first, the results were encouraging. There were signs Keian’s leukemia was going into remission – but in early December, the young boy experienced his first relapse of the disease.
Ryan and Chantal were understandably shocked and upset, but Keian stayed upbeat – a trait that has come to define the boy his parents call “a trooper.”
“When he was just getting out after the first relapse, he said he was just lucky to be at home for Christmas,” Ryan said. “He met a lot of kids at [BC Children’s Hospital] who couldn’t do that and he wanted to do something for them.” So Keian came up with the idea to organize a toy drive benefitting all of the kids he met during his time at the hospital.
Meanwhile, doctors found a different method that would give Keian a chance of driving off the leukemia. They discovered that Joren, his baby brother, was a match for a bone marrow transplant – a one in four chance.
The surgery was performed in March 2013. The transplant took.
Keian was kept at the hospital for months for observation. Doctors documented the slow return of his white blood cells and platelets, while Ryan and Chantal gave up their jobs and their Langley home to live in a trailer in the hospital’s parking lot to be close to the boy they call “one of the most selfless kids” they’ve ever met.
“He’s passionate, and his relationship that he has with his brother is absolutely amazing,” Ryan said. “He has nothing but pure love and devotion for him. He wanted to get his brother a medal for being a hero for saving his life by giving him his marrow…He’s grown up so much through all of this, but he’s never changed who he is.”
Tragedy strikes again
Months passed, and things were looking up for Keian and his family. He seemed healthy and active, like any other child his age.
But progress came to a screeching halt once again in July, when Keian came in for routine bloodwork preceding the removal of his central line.
“They came back to find that his white blood cells were at 140, which is ten times what it should be,” Ryan said. “That was an indication that it was back.”
Even doctors were shocked at the tragic turn of events – but Keian’s parents were crushed.
“Obviously we were devastated,” Ryan said. “We were told before that they pulled out all the big guns in order to fight this, and it had come back despite that.”
Not only had it returned, but the leukemia was more aggressive than ever. Doctors say Keian’s chances at recovery are not that good.
But that hasn’t stopped an increasingly generous outpouring of support since Keian’s story went public.
Family overwhelmed by show of support
Friends started a campaign on the crowdfunding website Fundrazr to help the Blundells cover bills and living costs while they spend every day with their ailing son. Well-wishers have donated more than $32,000 so far.
“We have complete strangers and people I haven’t seen since high school and they’re coming out of the woodwork and showing support,” Ryan said. “Even just the words of encouragement, it’s amazing.”
The generosity has allowed the parents to get an apartment only minutes away from BC Children’s – but there’s only one place they call home.
“Obviously home is where our family is,” Ryan said. “It’s great to have that sort of comfort but we don’t have that luxury of home – we have a place to stay, but it’s not home. Whether it’s Keian’s room or even in the car right now – that’s home.”
At his age, Keian might not fully comprehend the far-reaching show of support, Ryan said, but “he knows that there’s a lot of people pulling for him…You can tell he’s beaming but trying to hide it.”
What he does know, is that mom and dad can be near him while he continues to battle a disease that that keeps coming back.
“We still hold on to that hope and we still keep positive. They say that miracles do happen and that’s something we strongly believe.”
To donate to the Blundell family and leave them a message, click here.