If all goes well, Jason Overman will be back home in Utah within the week.
Doctors at UCLA Medical Center say there is an 80 percent chance they will release the 6-year-old Orem cancer patient to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City on Sept. 16."Jason is ecstatic," Lorraine Hill, Jason's aunt, said Friday. "Jon and Jane (Jason's parents) told him it is not `for sure,' but Jason is already planning his coming home party."
Jason was admitted to the medical center a few weeks before his Aug. 18 bone-marrow transplant. Jason suffers from neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that attacks the nervous system. After his disease was diagnosed in February, Jason's parents learned their insurance policy would not pay for the transplant - a procedure doctors said was the boy's best chance for survival.
Community-sponsored fund-raisers brought in $192,000, which the family hopes will cover most of Jason's hospital expenses.
"Jason is so excited about coming back to Utah; he has missed his brothers and sisters so much," Hill said. He spent much of his hospital time watching videos of a family party and of his 17-year-old sister, Julie, reading his favorite books, Hill said. Julie donated the marrow for Jason's transplant.
Much of Jason's recovery came last week, Hill said.
"He got graph-versus-host-disease last week, and spent the week with a 105 degree fever. His liver and kidneys became badly swollen, but starting Monday he made a complete turnaround." GVHD occurs when transplanted marrow rejects its new body. About half of all marrow transplant patients suffer some degree of GVHD, Vicki Beck, UCLA Medical Center spokeswoman, said.
Doctors said Jason would continue to suffer some symptoms of GVHD, but the condition would resolve itself over time, Hill said.
Jason's white blood-cell count had gone from zero, following his radiation and transplant, to 2,400 on Friday, Hill said. A normal count is 5,000 to 6,000, she said. White blood cells help the body fight infection.
"Jason will have to stay in Primary Children's Medical Center until he can eat solid food - he hasn't in five weeks - and until he doesn't need blood and platelet transfusions," Hill said. Such transfusions are a normal part of treatment for a bone-marrow transplant patient, Beck said. Platelets help the blood clot, she added.
Tests have showed no trace of tumors, Hill said. Several cancerous tumors were removed from Jason before he left Utah.
Hill said when Jason returns to Utah, he will be allowed no visitors except for healthy family members.
"His immunity will be low for nine to 12 months, and we can't risk exposing him to any viruses.
"But we are very encouraged. When Jason arrived, the UCLA doctors told us, at best, Jason might be able to come back to Utah in five weeks, so if he is released to Primary Children's next week, he will be a week ahead of schedule."
Jason's mother describes him as her "Bahama baby."
"I never knew this, but the radiation treatments give you a suntan," Hill said. "Jason is very dark.'
Jason will bring his best hospital friend with him to Utah.