Even though Christmas is a couple of months away, the Watts family received a special gift when they found out they had hope for their 6-year-old son who has leukemia.
Jayden Watts needs bone marrow, and his 3-year-old sister has turned out to be a perfect match.
Caroline Watts could save her brother’s life by giving him some of her bone marrow in a transplant at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston in December.
The family isn’t worried about an interruption of their holiday.
Never miss a local story.
“You’d rather him miss this Christmas than miss all the rest of them,” said Jayden’s dad, Joseph Watts.
Jayden has made about 15 trips to the hospital in the past two weeks.
This isn’t the first struggle in “Jayden’s Journey” – his parents’ name for his perseverance through the medical issues and obstacles he has had to overcome.
Jayden was born fighting for his life. He had a collapsed lung and clubbed feet.
At 3, he was diagnosed with autism.
Then at 4, he was diagnosed with cancer, but it went into remission shortly afterward.
In September, Jayden’s mom, Chelsey Watts, awakened around 5 a.m. to her son’s screams. He told her his back was hurting, and she thought he had appendicitis.
But it was leukemia, in his bone marrow and kidneys.
Since the diagnosis, he has gone through intense chemotherapy. Almost all of Jayden’s hair fell out during a bath, so his parents shaved his head, giving him what they call a rock star haircut.
Jayden’s relapse challenged his father’s faith in God, Joseph Watts said.
But one morning Jayden was sitting on the couch and randomly said: “I am a strong boy, Daddy.”
Joseph Watts took that as a message that affirmed God’s presence during the family’s struggle.
Jayden’s mother finds that her son helps her cope.
“He gives me inspiration whenever I’m upset about him,” Chelsey Watts said.
He helps her get through the awful things, she said, like cleaning up vomit and watching him have his finger pricked and deal with needles so often.
“Whenever he hurts, you hurt,” Chelsey Watts said.
But Jayden, a first-grader at Caughman Road Elementary School in lower Richland County, does not even acknowledge he is sick. His parents attribute that to his autism, which can affect children’s emotions and communication.
Neither parent was a donor match for Jayden. A sibling has only a 25 percent chance of being an appropriate donor, so when Caroline was a perfect match, the parents were grateful – and also amused: Among the five kids in the family, Caroline and Jayden fight a lot, they said.
Caroline, like most 3-year-olds who think they are princesses, is “bossy” and “sassy,” her mother said. But she also helps with chores around the house by picking up toys and vacuuming.
Jayden enjoys playing video games, such as “Angry Birds,” and he loves toy cars. He loves the Cars Disney Movie and has a blanket with the animated characters on it that he takes to the hospital, his mom said.
He even got to meet the stars of the movie, Mater and Lightning McQueen, on a trip to Disney World last October provided by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Insurance covers most of the medical bills, but other expenses add up – so many trips to the hospital take a lot of gas.
Donations have helped the family out. A lot of the furniture in the house they just moved into was donated, they said.
Supporters can buy rubber bracelets that say “Jayden’s Journey” and view Jayden’s Journey Facebook page, which has updates on him.
The next step in Jayden’s Journey will entail more than 100 days in the hospital. His parents will be there with Jayden, and this time with Caroline, too.
For now, the family continues to adjust.
“We’re still trying to figure the normal out,” Chelsey Watts said.
Want to help Jayden’s family?
Donations can be delivered or mailed to Caughman Road Elementary School PTO, 7725 Caughman Road, Columbia, SC 29209. Please put Jayden’s Journey on the check or envelope.
Keep up with Jayden’s Journey on his Facebook page:
How to help other patients who need a match
What: Bone marrow registry drive
When: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 11
Where: Room 149, Health Sciences Building, Midlands Technical College Airport Campus