Five-year-old Jason Overman was hoping to celebrate July 24th in surgery for a bone-marrow transplant that could save his life.
But it looks like Jason will spend Pioneer Day at his Orem home. Wednesday, two hours before he was scheduled to leave for the UCLA Medical Center, his parents learned there were no beds available."They said they could probably take him in a week or so," said Brent Wood, family friend and fund-raiser for Jason's surgery. "You'd think a hospital that size would be a little more organized than this."
"There was just some miscommunication," Jon Overman, Jason's father, said Saturday afternoon. "Primary Children's Medical Center thought one thing and UCLA thought something else."
Jason suffers from neuroblastoma, a rare form of nerve cancer. Surgeons have removed several cancerous tumors, and chemotherapy has slowed the spread of his disease, but Jason's main hope for survival is a marrow transplant from his 16-year-old sister, Julie. The surgery will increase his chance for survival from 20 percent to around 50 percent.
"UCLA only has a few rooms that can be used for patients with Jason's needs," Jon Overman said. "We thought a bed would be opening up, but we called to confirm, and they said there was nothing available.
"They said they would either admit Jason on the 1st or 8th of August. We will gear up to leave next Wednesday, then we will wait in Los Angeles for an opening."
When Jason's cancer was diagnosed in February, the Overmans hoped insurance would help pay the $155,000 estimated as the minimum cost of the surgery at the UCLA Medical Center. Insurance company officials said the surgery is considered experimental, so is not covered by the father's policy.
After exhausting their financial options, the Overmans turned to the community for help. Dozens of fund-raisers were organized, and efforts have raised $190,000.
Schools had fairs, carnivals and dances to raise money for the boy. Performers donated their services, and garage sales and auctions were held. A concrete company donated $25 for every square yard of concrete poured on Jason Overman day.
The most recent donation was offered by Utah State Prison inmates, who donated $803 last week. Many of the 184 inmates who donated gave wages earned doing prison tasks. The maximum an inmate can earn is $1.25 per hour. Tommy Clark, the inmate who organized the effort, earns 36 cents per hour as a janitor in a medium-security unit.
Wood said medical complications could drive the cost of the surgery to more than $200,000, but "everyone is hoping that will not happen." Fund-raisers are thrilled with the amount Utahns have given to help Jason, Wood said. If any money remains after the upcoming surgery, it will be donated to the Primary Children's Medical Center, he said.
Jason began chemotherapy in February, and has since lost about 25 percent of his body weight. He has also lost his hair and eyebrows.
But Jason remains cheerful and courageous, the boy's father said.
"I wish I had his courage."
So the money's in the bank, and Jason is just waiting for a bed.
"Medically, he is checked out and ready to go. His spirits are pretty good. He just wants to get the surgery over with," Wood said.
Jason will have his surgery a day or two after the medical center admits him, Wood said.
Jason hopes he and Julie will celebrate their common birthday, Aug. 5, in the hospital together.