Life is nearly normal for 3-year-old

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2005

AHOSKIE – Wayland Huckabee seems like an average three-year-old boy.

If you visit his home, he can be found running from pillar to post and playing with his sister, Reanna. He looks as normal as any child his age.

That is the Wayland Huckabee that his mother, Jennifer, and his father, Tony, have now, but such was nearly not the case.

At four months old, Wayland was diagnosed with a double ear infection and pneumonia. After a week of treatment at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital (RCH), the infant was no better and the medical staff sent him to Pitt Memorial Hospital (PMH) in Greenville.

After nearly another two weeks and no progress in getting Wayland any better, doctors at PMH diagnosed the youngster with Sever Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and immediately began the process of sending him to Duke Medical Center in Durham.

&uot;When they realized what he had, they put him on life support immediately because his lungs were filled with pneumonia and the doctors were afraid they would collapse,&uot; Tony Huckabee said.

While their son was airlifted to Durham, Tony and Jennifer had to drive to the hospital. &uot;That was the longest ride of our lives,&uot; Jennifer said of the trip.

The sight that awaited them when they arrived at Duke is one neither has been able to forget.

&uot;When we walked in he was hooked to so much stuff,&uot; Tony said. &uot;There were tubes everywhere.&uot;

Doctors at Duke, headed by the country’s top SCID expert, Dr. Rebecca Buckley, told Wayland’s parents that the infant would need a bone marrow transplant, but that he had to get well enough to undergo the procedure.

Sitting in Duke Medical Center with their five month old, Tony and Jennifer were told their son had a 50-50 chance of survival.

When everything seemed at its worst, things started slowly beginning to get better.

&uot;When we got to Duke, everything got better,&uot; Jennifer Huckabee said. &uot;I love that place.&uot;

The first break came when doctors were able to determine that the pneumonia from which Wayland was suffering was bacterial in nature rather than viral. That gave them an opportunity to treat him with an antibiotic that would help him fight the infection.

While that process was ongoing, tests were done to find the best match for the transplant. Both his mother and sister were good matches, so the doctors chose to take the bone marrow from Jennifer to try to help heal her young son.

To complete the transplant, Jennifer Huckabee underwent surgery in which a needle was stuck in her hipbone seven times in four different places. That procedure was done by Dr. Amy Scurlock with the supervision of Dr. Buckley.

Nine hours after the surgery, Tony Huckabee was able to inject the immature cells from Jennifer’s bone marrow into his son’s IV.

Asked how each of them felt about having a part in saving their son’s life, both parents agreed they felt it was a miracle.

&uot;It was wonderful,&uot; Tony Huckabee said.

&uot;I think it’s great,&uot; Jennifer Huckabee said. &uot;One of my friends wrote a letter that said I gave him life twice. I thought that was beautiful.&uot;

After the transplant, Wayland’s parents had two wait three weeks before they could tell if the procedure had worked. During that time, their thoughts were vastly different.

&uot;As positive as the doctors were about his case after he got rid of the pneumonia, I felt good about it,&uot; Tony Huckabee said. &uot;I just knew it was going to take.&uot;

Wayland’s mother had a different thought process.

&uot;I had heard so many others that had been through this three or four times so I was concerned,&uot; Jennifer Huckabee said. &uot;I knew their kids looked just as healthy as ours, so I was worried.&uot;

After the three weeks finally ended, the news was good. Doctors felt like the transplant was taking.

&uot;It was like he was born all over again,&uot; Tony Huckabee said.

&uot;Especially when we went into that place thinking…,&uot; Jennifer Huckabee added, her voice trailing off.

While the situation in Durham was improving, there was one in the Roanoke-Chowan area that blew Tony and Jennifer away.

Led by the efforts of Kimzie Myers, what seemed like the entirety of Hertford, Bertie and the surrounding areas had rallied behind Wayland.

Myers organized a softball tournament that raised nearly $5,000 to help with medical expenses and helped organize the placing of jars in businesses all over Ahoskie in which people throughout the area donated money to the cause.

In addition, Early’s Baptist Church sent food and money to the hospital and visited on numerous occasions. Other churches in the area, many of which Tony and Jennifer said they had never heard of, sent money, cards and prayers.

&uot;It was crazy!,&uot; Jennifer Huckabee said.

&uot;It changed my entire outlook on this place,&uot; Tony added. &uot;We had always talked about leaving and getting out of here, but after what we experienced, I couldn’t imagine leaving now. We got so many thoughts, prayers, kind words and support from people we had never met and probably will never meet.&uot;

Some of those included DrugCo, Stitch Count, RBC Centura, Schueck Steel and Stoney Creek Diner.

Looking back, both Tony and Jennifer said they had nothing but gratitude for those who supported them and their son.

&uot;Thank you so much to those who did anything,&uot; Jennifer said. &uot;Whether they said a prayer, donated money, brought food, whatever they did. It meant so much to us.&uot;

&uot;Thank you all and God bless each and every person who helped,&uot; Tony added. &uot;Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to return the favor.&uot;

While still living a basically normal life, Wayland continues to make monthly trips to Durham where he undergoes a procedure that provides his body with antibodies.

While doctors remain hopeful that one day his body will produce its own antibodies, those trips could last the rest of his life.

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency is a primary immune deficiency.

This usually results in the onset of one or more serious infections within the first few months of life.

These infections are usually serious, even life threatening, and may include pneumonia, meningitis or bloodstream infections.