When Colten Collier was just nine months old, a doctor discovered that his platelet count was abnormally low. It would take over three years to uncover the reason why. In all the world, just 100 or so other people had the same condition as Colten—Congenital Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia (CAMT). Colten’s only hope for avoiding bone marrow failure or leukemia in childhood would be a successful bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
Colten entered the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital as a four-year-old. An unrelated stem cell donor from Poland seemed to be a perfect match for Colten’s body. If the transplant was successful and Colten’s immune system became completely normal within the next two years, he would be cured of CAMT.
Karen, Colten’s mom, says their stay on the BMTU felt profoundly isolating at times. “You’re stuck,” she said. “You feel like you can’t leave your child to go to a restaurant or run an errand. You eat hospital food and almost all of your interaction is with your child, doctors, and other parents of sick children.”
This, Karen said, is what made His Grace Foundation so special.
“Everyone we came into contact with through HGF was so nice and comforting,” she said. “They seemed to understand what we were going through. It made us feel normal.”
Karen recalled that little Colten loved to walk the halls of the BMTU with his Ninja Turtles rolling suitcase full of toys. Some of those toys, she recalled fondly, came from His Grace Foundation.
“To this day, Colten associates Mom with LEGOs and Dad with puzzles because that was our routine on the BMTU. We got to request those toys on our shopping list and every time Colten received one, he felt like he wasn’t in the hospital for a little while.”
For a little boy like Colten, the joy of not feeling like he was in the hospital meant a great deal. Colten, who is now eight and in second grade, loves the outdoors, playing baseball and getting dirty. He plays Little League and select baseball, so his evenings and weekends are full of sweat, activity, and competition. He’s traded a cooped up, sterile hospital room for the freedom of a baseball field, and he couldn’t be happier.
Karen recalled that having delicious lunches delivered and her parents receiving massages when they came to help her care for Colten made her family feel supported through an abnormal time as they waited for the day they could step back into their normal home life. Now, she said, Colten is making up for lost time, tossing aside the iPad in favor of the great outdoors.
Sometimes Colten will ask Karen if she remembers when he was in the hospital. They’ll talk about it a bit — Colten’s memories are faint since he was so small. Above all, Karen focuses on how fortunate they are that their time on the BMTU ended so well and Colten is thriving. And when Colten’s birthday comes around, they celebrate his life by collecting toys and donations for His Grace Foundation to give to bone marrow transplant patients and families.
“Not everyone who was on the BMTU gets to have the kind of life Colten is having now,” Karen said. “It would be easy to take our normalcy for granted or to be exhausted by how busy we are with school and sports. But we’re just so thankful we get to do it all.”