WINFIELD - Greg and Christy Spann, the Winfield parents of Wyatt Spann, have been through many ups and downs in the treatment of their child's cancer, and now face even more challenges in the days ahead.
Christy Spann, who grew up in Eldridge and graduated from Carbon Hill High School, wrote for the Daily Mountain Eagle last week after many in the area have had an outpouring of love and concern about Wyatt, who was born on Nov. 20, 2015.
"At that time I was 42 years old and Greg was 43. Wyatt was a blessing and a surprise that we received from GOD," she said.
On Dec. 2, 2018, the couple took Wyatt to Children’s of Alabama (also known as Children's Hospital) in Birmingham because he had been throwing up once almost daily for 10 days.
"We thought he had a stomach virus that had been going around," she said. "Our pediatrician had called him in medicine for vomiting. Once we got to Children’s Hospital, they did blood work and also did am x-ray of his stomach. Everything came back normal. They gave him a bag of fluids.
"We were about to be discharged when the doctor noticed his right eye turn inward toward his nose for just a second. He asked us if it had done that before and we said 'no.' The doctor asked if we would mind staying the night for observations." The couple agreed.
Later in the night she and Wyatt were in bed watching cartoons when she noticed that his right eye had again turned toward his nose, while his left eye remained straight. Greg Spann alerted the doctors, who immediately sent for a CT scan of Wyatt's head.
"It showed a mass the size of a golf ball on the base of his brain on his brain stem," Christy Spann said. "The next morning on Dec. 3, 2018, Wyatt had a two-hour MRI. The results were a tumor on his brain stem and it was blocking one of his ventricles that allowed spinal fluid to go from his brain down his spine. His spine had also been 'frosted' with cancer from his spinal fluid running over the brain tumor carrying the cancer up and down his spine."
Early the next morning, Dec. 4, 2018, Wyatt had a six-hour brain surgery to remove the tumor on his brain stem. The next six weeks the family stayed mostly in pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). He had to have a shunt placed in his brain to regulate the pressure on his brain.
"That procedure made his brain ‘angry' and his body started dumping out all his sodium, which lead to seizures and being placed on the ventilator," she said. "After they got his sodium regulated and Wyatt was stable enough, we started chemotherapy.
"That was very difficult to do from a parent stand point, because the nurses that administer the chemo drugs come into your room dressed in gowns so the chemo will not get on them. You are told, 'Do Not let any of your child’s body fluid get on you. Don’t let his tears get on you.' Because what you are allowing them to put in his body is poison, but you don’t have a choice if you want to try to save your baby."
After the first dose of chemo, his shunt "stopped up," she said. On Christmas Eve 2018 Wyatt had to have emergency surgery to revise his shunt.
Wyatt had five rounds of very harsh chemo, she said. After the second round they harvested his stem cells to use later during stem cell transplant. Then they performed an MRI and it showed that the cancer in his brain was gone, and that the cancer in his spine was very small and could even be scar tissue.
"We were so excited we thought we had won," Christy Spann said. "Our next step was to start stem cell transplant. But within three weeks before we could begin stem cell transplant, we noticed Wyatt’s eyes were not acting right and brought that to our oncologist’s attention.
"They did another MRI. The cancer was back. It had only been three weeks and it had come back. Our oncologist did a lot of research and came up with two more rounds of a different regimen of chemo that may beat the cancer. So Wyatt went through two more rounds of very hard chemo. Another MRI showed the cancer was not completely gone, but it was stable enough to start stem cell transplant."
On Aug. 14, 2019, Wyatt started stem cell transplant treatment, leading to six days of extremely harsh chemo. One of the chemo drugs leached out through the skin. To keep from having third-degree burns, Wyatt had to have baths every six hours around the clock for four days. On Aug. 23, Wyatt received his stem cells back that was harvested earlier in the year.
"Wyatt developed mucositis and had to be in PICU on the ventilator for a few days," Christy Spann said. "They also did an MRI on his brain and spine and it showed brain swelling and new cancer growth. But Wyatt proved to everyone that he is a fighter. On Sept 10, 2019, Wyatt was discharged from Children’s Hospital."
The family was told that the only thing left that might stop the cancer was radiation - but that the side effects of radiation on a child Wyatt’s age was terrible. Doctors were worried that Wyatt may not make it through radiation. However, on Nov. 11 Wyatt completed a 28-day cycle of high dose radiation.
"He again proved to everyone just how strong he was," she said.
However, more challenges have recently come up.
"We had a follow up MRI scan on December 16, 2019, with the hopes that the radiation had killed and stopped the cancer," she said. "But the results we so prayed for were not the results that we received. The old cancer appears to be dormant but there is new cancer growing in his brain.
"We are now faced with choices that no parent should have to make," she said.
Since submitting the piece, the family has posted on Facebook that they are sending information to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis for possible help there. Meanwhile, Wyatt received a visit from Santa.
"Wyatt's had a good Christmas and we'd like to say thank you to everyone that made that possible, (with) all the gifts and cards. We really appreciate it," the family posted on Christmas.
In other posts the family notes his restless nights, and asks people to keep prayers going for Wyatt and the doctors.
"God will place us where we need to be. He's got us this far," the family posted Thursday.