A Donegal boy has achieved an inspirational life goal this week with a charity haircut.
It has taken Moville schoolboy Kai Boreland (11) almost four years to grow his hair long enough to make a wig for child with cancer. Four years ago, he lost his own hair to chemotherapy.
Kai was seven years old when he faced a long tough battle with aplastic anaemia, a rare blood disorder that causes bone marrow failure.
“Three times we nearly lost him, but he pulled through,” said Kai’s mum Mary.
“This week was another major milestone for Kai. He had his three year marker last summer. He lost all his memories from before being sick, so we celebrate each milestone as they come.”
Kai had been feeling unwell in April 2014, before taking a sudden turn one day after school. Mary recalls rushing to Letterkenny Hospital after he came home with yellow eyes.
Kai had a virus which had caused him to suffer liver failure. Doctors managed to save his liver, but the virus moved to his bone marrow and caused total bone marrow failure. He was moved to Crumlin Children’s Hospital, where the only hope of saving him was a bone marrow transplant.
Kai’s father Mark said: “In Kai’s case, the entire bone marrow was gone. He was getting blood and platelet transfusions every day. We were running out of options and they were preparing us for LauraLynn.”
There was a one in four chance of Kai’s older brother Killian (14) being a suitable donor. He was a 100% match. Not only was the transplant a priceless gift of life to his brother, it was even more remarkable because Killian has Type 1 Diabetes.
Things took a terrifying turn shortly after surgery when Kai had an adverse reaction to cyclosporine.
“He went blind, he had swelling in the brain and he could not move. Doctors were running in in their pyjamas and rushing him to brain scans,” Mark said.
Kai fought for his life in ICU. The injury set his recovery back, but he battled through it.
“He’s a fighter, that’s the kind of kid he is,” Mark said.
Kai and Killian could not be together after their surgery, due to Kai’s low immunity. They could only communicate through the window of the hospital, which was when Mary took this heart-rending photo.
Kai was in hospital from the 9th of April 2014 to the end of September. One day, a little girl he made friends with through the windows gave him the inspiration to grow his hair.
“When he was in isolation, Kai made friends with other kids through the windows. He would play with one little girl who had leukaemia. One day she was bald, and the next she had a full head of hair.
“Kai asked, ‘What’s up with that?’, and we explained that it was a wig and kids donate their hair to make them.
“Kai said, ‘I’m going to do that’ and he didn’t get a haircut again.”
The Borelands had a full year of isolation in their home with Kai, who had no immunity following his treatment.
The family think of July 3rd as Kai’s second birthday, when his life started again. Prior to this date, he has no memories.
“That Christmas we had to teach him how to hold his pencil and his ABCs. By May, he went back to school at the same level of his class, and he was ahead in reading thanks to his amazing teacher Christina Galbraith, who was always so careful about his health,” Mark said.
Now, Kai is doing well at school and enjoys jiu-jitsu and activities with his Scouts group. Up until this week, he was working on his grand goal of growing his hair to help others.
Not many boys grow their hair for the Little Princess Trust, but Kai was determined, despite getting picked on for his long curly locks.
Mark said: “Kai didn’t want to explain why he was doing it.
“Kids don’t mean to bully, but he was often called a girl. He set himself apart, he made himself different so he could grow his hair for kids who can’t.”
When his hair came to the right length, Kai declared he was ready and went for the cut at Powder ‘n’ Pout Carndonagh on Tuesday. Stylist Aisling Cunningham straightened his Irish dancer’s curls before snipping away 14 inches to be sent to England. Kai was delighted with his new look, and even happier to know he was helping another child.
Mary said: “He was so proud to be getting his hair cut, it’s such a good thing. We don’t care about the other complications. We’re just so happy he is still here with us.”
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