Colin Clark is surrounded by his school friends and family at Saturday’s special blood donor clinic at Canadian Blood Services. All 65 donation spots were filled by teachers and parents of his school friends. Colin is battling leukemia and requires many blood transfusions. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Colin Clark’s life is defined by weekly blood test results.
Through a hole in his chest, which his parents affectionately call the "‘Iron Man" port,’ Colin has a blood transfusion every 10 days which has become routine for the six-year-old leukemia patient.
His parents, Cheryl Mauthe and Mike Clark, said he’s like any other boy. He plays with friends, goes to school and watches "Power Rangers." "It’s just he’s bald and gets chemo," Mauthe said.
But Colin’s health is still fragile. A fever means a trip to the hospital in Winnipeg and if one of his classmates are sick, he stays home.
"If he gets a fever, it’s a question of are we going to drive him to Winnipeg or whether he gets an ambulance ride to Winnipeg," Clark said.
Just days before Colin was set to start his first day of Grade 1, he was complaining of a sore throat. Less than 24 hours later, Colin was at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg where he received a blood transfusion, a lumbar puncture, a bone marrow biopsy and chemotherapy; the first of dozens of sessions that kills the good with the bad.
"You don’t even have time to breath," Mauthe said.
Mauthe and Clark don’t know what "normal" will look like for Colin as he continues his battle, but Colin knows no other life.
"We’ve always told Colin he’s not sick, his blood is," said Mauthe.
Mauthe said she always told herself she should donate blood, but like so many, couldn’t find the time and described the guilt that washed over her during Colin’s first days at the Winnipeg hospital.
"I’m holding Colin and he’s so sore from the bone marrow biopsy and he’s getting a blood transfusion, I just start crying."
"I can’t express how grateful and guilty and everything in between you feel in that moment."
Despite the unpredictable and hectic schedule of Colin and his family, they have joined École Harrison and Canadian Blood Services to host Colin’s Crusaders blood donor clinics throughout March.
Saturday marked the first day of the campaign and all of the day’s appointments were booked up.
"Brandon has such a sense of community," said Jenna Burdy, community development co-ordinator for CBS. "A story like this, it touches everybody."
École Harrison principal Craig Laluk, a regular blood donor, orchestrated the partnership between the family and CBS for the campaign.
"We’re here to support the family," he said.
Colin has been going to school for half days and Colin’s parents said the school has bent over backwards for him throughout his battle.
"It’s important for us for it to be a normal environment for Colin when he comes to school."
Meanwhile, the parents are still reeling from the devastating news more than six months later.
Some days, on early morning trips to Winnipeg, the gravity sets in for Clark.
"You think, I’m driving my six-year-old son to chemotherapy and it hits you."
But Mauthe said while trying to stay positive, she tries not to ride the high and low waves of emotion.
"Of course there are nights when I lay awake, upset, crying playing the ‘what if’ game, but you can’t do that."
"At some point you have to take the emotion out in order to cope as a parent. If you work off of the emotional high of it, I don’t think you can actually be there for your child in the way you need to be."
Without delays, Colin is scheduled to go through chemo until the winter of 2015.
Colin’s Crusaders blood donor clinics are open March 13, 14, 20, 21 and 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 11, 2013