A fighting chance for Nolan the champ

Photo courtesy Nolan The Champ’s HLH Journey Facebook Page

By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun

Six month old Nolan Lanza had just begun his life when it became apparent that something was not quite right. At two months old, he began experiencing fevers, and after three hospital visits to determine what could possibly be causing them, he was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH).

HLH is an uncommon disorder found usually in young children, in which the immune system becomes overactive, proliferating too many white blood cells and attacking tissues and organs. It is a life-threatening disorder with a mortality rate of 50 percent, and it requires aggressive treatment.

At about 5 months old, “Nolan the Champ,” as friends and family call him, had begun steroid treatment for his condition at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, Calif. Unfortunately, the treatment was not as effective as doctors had hoped, and little Nolan took on his first chemotherapy treatment on January 25.

In that short time, Nolan has had more than his fair share of hurdles for such a short life. He has endured a scarily increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and a complete loss of white blood cells. He has struggled with lung abscesses, infections, and more than one surgery in just a few weeks.

After his initial diagnosis, tests determined that Nolan’s condition was “primary” HLH, meaning that his condition was inherited rather than caused by an underlying tumor or infection. This means that Nolan will have to undergo continuous treatment, as his condition is not due to a treatable underlying cause.

Nolan’s parents, Jon and Katie Lanza, realized early on that Nolan’s road to treatment would be a long one. They created a Facebook page to keep family and friends informed of his progress, a page that quickly grew to nearly 1,000 followers.

As Nolan began to show some signs of improvement, his parents organize a bone marrow drive for Saturday, February 10, for Kern River Valley residents to register to find out if they are a possible match to donate bone marrow to Nolan. According to Nolan’s grandfather, Wallace and Kernville Elementary School Principal Brian Polston, 89 local residents registered as marrow donors. Another drive is scheduled for February 18 in Bakersfield at the Lifepoint Church.

And the family has been given some financial help from the sale of t-shirts designed by one of Katie’s basketball players, Kaila Gholson. To date, they have raised about $2,000 off of shirt sales to help with medical costs.

“We’re looking forward to Nolan (continuing) to get stronger so when we find a match he will be ready to go,” the Lanzas said via Nolan’s Facebook page. “Our big prayer request is that Nolan will start gaining weight to help him with his fight.”

“We have been overwhelmed by all the love and support the Kern River Valley community has shown us,” said Polston.

If you would like to register to be a possible bone marrow donor for Nolan, visit join.bethematch.org/thechamp. You can also follow his journey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nolansHLHjourney/.