Kisses4Kate helping family of boy with rare form of anemia
Nicholas Thornton plays the piano and often wakes up in the morning singing a song.
He wants to be a chemist when he grows up and dreams of one day meeting Paul McCartney.
Nicholas, 11, has spent much of 2013 fighting for his life.
On Jan. 30, Nicholas' parents picked him up from Kernersville Elementary School after noticing unusual bruising on his body. By the end of the day, they were rushing Nicholas to Brenner Children's Hospital.
Doctors diagnosed Nicholas with aplastic anemia, a condition considered to be bone marrow failure. Over the next two months, Nicholas suffered a pair brain hemorrhages. The second nearly claimed his life. Doctors removed a third of his skull and he has yet to regain feeling on the left side of his body.
"We were told he would not survive the night," said Nancy Thornton, Nicholas' mother. "We picked him up from school on Jan. 30 and we haven't returned to any type of normal life since. He is such a fighter, but it has been agonizing."
Nicholas hopes to be home by Christmas, but that depends on how his body holds up. Doctors last month discovered fluid in his lungs, delaying a pre-Thanksgiving discharge from Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte. Nicholas underwent a bone marrow transplant on Sept. 20 after doctors found that his father, Charles Jon Thornton, matched as a donor.
"We pray that the bone marrow holds strong," Nancy said. "We call him our 1-percent kid. There are only between 300 to 600 cases of aplastic anemia diagnosed in this country every year. Over the next five years we're looking at keeping the anemia at bay. He's highly susceptible to anything right now. It appears the bone marrow transplant was successful but it's a whole new way of life for us. He's in good spirits. He woke up singing 'I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.' "
Nicholas is wheelchair bound and will be for the foreseeable future. When Nicholas finally returns home he will not be able to go back to school for his fifth grade year. His family faces a new routine of frequent doctor visits and rehab appointments. Family and friends have helped Nicholas' parents stay by their son's side for the past 10 months, but more help is needed.
Nancy, a special education teacher in Kernersville, faces a new financial burden after financing a wheelchair accessible van equipped to meet her son's needs.
That's where Kisses4Kate comes in.
Nancy, who lived at Mills Home and graduated from Thomasville High School in 1986, first heard of the nonprofit during her son's stay at Brenners. Kisses4Kate assists families of children with cancer in a variety of ways. Because her son didn't have cancer, Nancy hesitated to contact the nonprofit, but at the urging of a friend, she decided to give it a try.
Kisses4Kate was ready to help.
To help Nicholas' family pay for the much-needed van, Kisses4Kate is holding a "one dollar at a time" website and Facebook campaign. Anyone interested in helping can donate a dollar at Kisses4Kate.org.
"We just want to help get the word out and have everybody who reads the story send in a dollar," said Kat Manzella, executive director of Kisses4Kate. "I know that we can reach 20,000 people. I have no doubt in my mind that we can do this one dollar at a time."
Nicholas is not related to Kate Thornton, whose death following a courageous battle with leukemia inspired the creation of the nonprofit which helps children fight the deadly disease. Any additional money raised above the cost of the van will go to Kisses4Kate and directly to other families who need help.
"I am thrilled to work with them," Nancy said. "This is easier for me to accept this kind of help because this is two-fold. It brings more awareness to K4K and anything over amount will roll into K4K and that makes me feel much better."
Nicholas sings in the Winston-Salem Youth Chorus and is ready to go see a movie. Classmates miss Nicholas, noting in letters that school isn’t as fun any more without his outgoing personality.
Nancy said her son doesn’t feel sorry for himself and he faces his new challenges head on, much like the little girl who shares his last name.
For more information, visit kisses4kate.org or Prayers for Nicholas Thornton on Facebook.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes,com.