Six-year-old Xander Archuleta has many loves; playing with his friends, working with Play Doh, playing video games and, particularly, trains.
But he has been forced to put many of the things he likes to do on the back burner. The challenges of a health crisis have set him back time and time again since he was 17 months old. And he will face even more battles as the next year progresses.
Over four years ago, the little tyke from Price was diagnosed with leukemia. Ever since, through treatments, remission, recurrence, treatments and remission, all happening a number of times, he has been able to survive.
Now he has had a bone marrow transplant (using stem cells). Medical personnel who are working with him are optimistic, although they won't give his mother, Mandy Archuleta, any percentages for his future.
His history of disease and medical treatments to tame it would make those of even the most seasoned veteran of adult hospital experiences pale in comparison. The leukemia first showed up in 2005. Then, after the doctors thought they had it beat, it appeared in his spinal fluid when he was three years old. Another set of treatments followed. When Xander was five years old, the doctors once again thought they had it beat. Then, earlier this year (March), it recurred again. This time, it manifested in his eyes. In each occurrence, the treatment had to be changed. Still, a series of chemotherapy sessions and radiation had to be used.
"Being in his eyes this time makes it very difficult to treat," explained Mandy. "They don't like to use radiation around his eyes because of the problems it can cause later on down the line. And the chemo really doesn't get to the eyes. Since he was a year and a half (old), he really hasn't ever been off some kind of therapy for very long."
All the financial costs incurred through the therapies and treatments are as significant an issue as are the health care issues involved with Xander. And, in the next few months, the expenses will be even higher. He and his mother and will stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City during a time period when his health is still fragile. Things could go south quickly. He has to stay within 20 miles of PCH for up to four months.
"I have had good insurance covering a lot of this," said Mandy as she sat in a nurse's station at Primary Children's Hospital. "But I couldn't have done all that we have without the great support system we have had from my family, and friends who have come to help us."
Still, money is a problem, as little Xander, who played a video game while his mother sat outside his room being interviewed, doesn't quite understand yet. The living costs alone of staying in Salt Lake when their home is in Price are high. And, the fact that Mandy will not be able to work the entire time Xander is in treatment along the Wasatch Front, makes it even costlier.
"I work for NAPA in Price," says Mandy, who relates that Rick Krompel, her boss, is very understanding regarding the situation. "But no money is coming in while I am here."
Xander is also missing school this year. He should be in kindergarten. While the school (Creekview) has provided support when he is home, at Primary Children's it is too far away for anyone from the school district to be able to reasonably do anything. He did, however, get to go to preschool for a while last year in between occurrences.
"We hope that, once we are out of here, we can get a tutor and get him caught up so he can go back to school, but I pretty much expect he has lost kindergarten for this year," his mother said.
Mandy and Xander have made it through many trials because of their family and the community that surrounds them in Carbon County.
"So many people have already helped us," stated Mandy. "The Parrot Heads Club and Kiwanis Club have given money, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave us a trip to Ohio, where Xander got to ride on a narrow gauge railroad through the central part of the state. They even let him ride up in the engine."
The Ronald McDonald House is cheap lodging, considering the costs of other accommodations in Salt Lake City. Still, at $675 per month, it is not easy for a family that has no current income. Mandy's ex-husband has helped a lot, but he recently got laid off from his job, Things are looking a little bleaker these days.
That's why, this Saturday, Nov. 14, friends, family and other supportive people are holding a benefit dinner and auction for Xander, so he can get the treatment he needs and stay in place in Salt Lake to get it. The dinner will take place at the Helper Auditorium from 5 to 7:30 p.m. A silent auction will be held at the dinner. Among items to be auctioned off are two rifles, a shotgun, binoculars, a rifle scope, a little giant ladder and a vacuum from Loveless Ash. There are also many overnight stays including some in Park City, Mesquite, Wendover, and Las Vegas, Nev. as well as in Salt Lake, and St. George. There are also many other great items. A donation account has also been set up at Zions Bank in Xander's name.
When Xander is better, he will return home to play with friends, play video games and hopefully watch the trains on the tracks that run through Price, dreaming all the while of when he got to ride in a steam locomotive, hopefully, a good memory of long ago.