TWINSBURG — "Close your eyes and picture your kid — picture your kid playing their favorite sport. Now, imagine that sport being taken away from them. Now, picture a medical diagnosis on top of that. Picture losing a spouse’s income; now you are down to one income. Imagine the strain that causes."
That’s how Dan Heman described the situation that Colin Bowser and his family are in.
Heman, a janitor with the R.B. Chamberlin Middle School, is one of the organizers for a fundraiser for Colin, 16, who suffered a heart attack during football practice in September 2017, and a year later was diagnosed with leukemia.
The June 8 event will be at Roseland Lanes, 26383 Broadway Ave. in Oakwood, from 6 to 9 p.m. The cost is $15, which includes three hours of bowling, shoes, food and a cash bar.
Heman said there will be a line of "Team Colin" clothing available for purchase, with proceeds going to the family, and baskets for raffle donated by area businesses.
"We’ve probably got about a dozen baskets," Heman said.
Nikkie Huisman, Colin’s mother and a Reminderville resident, said she was told Colin had been running laps during football practice when he started feeling lightheaded.
"I wasn’t there at that time," Huisman said. "His coach had taken him into the locker room and to the drinking fountain. Colin had turned his head to talk to another coach and that’s when he passed out. I heard the young lady interning came in just then, and just jumped on him and started performing CPR."
When paramedics arrived, they had to shock him with a defibrillator twice to get his heart beating normally, Huisman said. Colin was transported to an emergency room in Twinsburg once he was stabilized. He was later taken by helicopter to Akron Children’s Hospital to have an internal cardiac defibrillator put in.
He later recovered, but a different health problem arose — one he’s still fighting.
Heman said he first heard about Colin’s leukemia diagnosis while at a football game, and he saw T-shirts with "Team Colin" on them.
"The lady selling the shirts told me, ‘You know, it’s such a shame about what happened to Colin,’" Heman said. "I asked her, ‘Why, what happened?’ She told me he had just been diagnosed with leukemia."
Huisman said her son’s life road has "been quite challenging."
Roughly a year after his heart attack, Huisman said Colin started showing symptoms of extreme fatigue.
"He was tired, he was sleeping a lot," Huisman said, adding he’d often sleep eight or nine hours after school. "They had just changed his heart medication, so we thought it was too high a dose."
However, changes to his medication did not help, she said.
A blood test returned the chilling diagnosis: Acute Lymphoid Leukemia, or ALL.
Huisman said Colin was doing well through the grueling chemo regimen, which started in September.
"His treatment is pretty intense," she said. "He has one more round of intense treatment; we hope to finish in August or September. But it’s not easy. He gets a fever, he has to go to hospital. We have to watch his numbers and keep him away from other people if they are too low. I had to take a leave of absence at work because there were just so many appointments to keep. But he is responding well."
Even after the summer’s intense chemotherapy sessions wrap up, Colin will still undergo "maintenance chemo" for about 2 1/2 years, Huisman said. After that, there will be further testing to make certain the cancer is gone, at which point Colin’s port will be removed.
Her son has had to be homeschooled this past school year due to his weakened immune system, Huisman said.
"His immune system is shot," she said. "The things you take for granted."
Colin said he wasn’t able to attend many of the football games, and had to skip all of his friend’s basketball games due to his treatment, something he missed going to.
"The chemo made me feel sick," he said. "Some of the nurses I’ve met helped me get through it. But we’d be there in the hospital for a week to go through chemo. I sometimes couldn’t keep food down. it was bad."
However, Colin is looking forward to getting past the intense treatment and getting back to school.
"I’m trying to get back into football this coming fall, trying to work out," Colin said.
Colin said he also looked forward to driving, and would like to find a year-around job. He added that he originally wanted to get into welding as a career but the surgery performed for his heart attack has made that impossible. Instead, he is considering enrolling at the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in the automotive program.
Both Huisman and Colin expressed their gratitude for the community support the family has received.
"We are really, honestly, blessed," Huisman said. "Not just with the fundraiser, but with the cards in the mail, the volleyball team played a game that was a fundraiser, the football team had an orange out night at one of their games. We do have an awesome community that we live in. We are just appreciative of the support for Colin."
Colin said he’s received a lot of messages from people asking about the upcoming fundraiser.
"I’ve had people message me from my old school asking about it," he said. "It makes me happy it’s gotten so known."
Heman said families are encouraged to come to the June 8 fundraiser.
"There’s no age limits, and there are 50 lanes," he said. "I’m hoping families will come out, celebrate the end of the school year, while doing something for the family."
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC