“You need to go straight to the Emergency Room.”
Judi Peters’ head was spinning. The ER? There has to be a mistake. She’d only brought her 10-year-old son, Nick, to the pediatrician for a quick visit. He’d seemed a bit “off” – falling asleep in the car on the way home from school, unable to accomplish in P.E. what had always come easily. But the Emergency Room? Surely, this is just growing pains?
“I have to pick up my daughter from gymnastics.” Judi’s brain was trying to catch up. This was just any other day. She couldn’t possibly need to take her son to the hospital.
Minutes later she found herself en route to the hospital. Teams there were already preparing for Nick’s arrival. His hemoglobin levels were dangerously low at the pediatrician’s office and by the time he checked in at the ER they had dropped even more. He was admitted right away.
After a few days of testing the worst was confirmed. Nick was diagnosed with leukemia and began treatment on October 3, 2009.
The years that followed were tumultuous.
After completing nearly four years of treatment, Nick relapsed. He’d been at his oncologist just two weeks prior and been given a clear report. And yet, his cancer had now returned and this time with even more aggression.
Rather than attending his freshman year in high school, Nick went to Houston for treatment. And miraculously he fought his way to remission. He returned to high school his sophomore year and began radiation. But shortly after, complications brought him home again. Even still, by his junior year he was strong enough to return to school.
Nick was thrilled to be spending time with friends. He was due to complete his treatment in March and was feeling great.
But two months away from that milestone, Nick experienced his second relapse. And this time he would need a bone marrow transplant. It was March of 2016 and instead of celebrating the end of his treatment, Nick was starting all over and being admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital.
Judi remembers walking onto the BMTU and being welcomed by the HGF Welcome Basket. She felt blessed by the necessities and thankful for the lighthearted items for Nick. So much so that she and her TeamWalkerPete volunteers began creating similar bags of essentials for ‘go-bags’ for clinic patients in their hometown of Harlingen.
“You never know when a clinic visit is going to turn into an automatic hospital admission.”
Nick’s fun-loving spirit was in full-force on the BMTU.
“What’s the fastest anyone has ever gotten out of here?” Nick asked upon admittance.
“Twenty-four days,” answered a Physician’s Assistant.
“I’m going to get out of here in twenty,” Nick said with conviction.
On transplant day he directed a two-and-a-half minute cinematic production from his bed, telling his sisters to take zoomed-in shots of his donor cells and then compiling it with moody black-and-white filters all to the sound of him singing Hello by Adele.
Nick received his transplant on April 15. His sister, Ashley, was his donor. By the end of May he and Judi were moving into a His Grace Place apartment.
Local housing is imperative to the success of bone marrow transplant patients. Protocol requires they be within close proximity of the hospital for a 100-day period following transplant. For most, it’s an expense too great to bear. HGF provides a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment in a luxury complex just minutes from the medical center.
“There was no way we could have done it,” Judi said. “To take that piece of worry out of the equation is huge.”
Nick spent the following two months experiencing the joy of his family at His Grace Place. Judi recalls listening to Nick and his brother’s laughter while playing XBox. She remembers driving back to the apartment one evening and being welcomed by balloons and homemade cannelloni in honor of her birthday.
“We couldn’t have done that from a hotel.”
In July Nick was readmitted to Texas Children’s. His liver and heart were experiencing complications. He had a C. diff infection.
“Every specialist was trying to fix it,” Judi recalls. “And if they could have fixed it, they would have…you could see it in their eyes.”
Nick’s doctor’s confirmed that there was nothing more that could be done.
On October 3, 2016 — seven years to the day after Nick first began treatment for leukemia — Nick passed away at the age of 17.
The Peters family founded TeamWalkerPete Foundation to honor the legacy of their son and brother Nick Walker Peters whose battle with leukemia spanned seven years and included two relapses and a bone marrow transplant.
His Grace Foundation could not be more pleased to announce that TeamWalkerPete Foundation has partnered with us to fund a fifth His Grace Place apartment!
Nick’s dream was to move to New York City and live in a high-rise apartment. He was passionate about technology, created several successful iPhone apps and had an incredible business sense.
“His Grace Place was Nick’s high-rise apartment,” says Judi.
Because of TWP’s generous gift, HGF will be able to provide more families with a space of comfort and rest as they navigate their post-transplant journey.
“Mentally, emotionally, physically…that apartment meant so much to us,” recalls Judi. “That’s why my heart led us to do this. Some of the best times for Nick were because of that apartment.”
To learn more about Nick’s story and TeamWalkerPete Foundation, click here.