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Chase Galbraith, the young boy from Hope who was awaiting a potentially lifesaving bone marrow transplant from his brother, has died.
Chase, the 2-year-old son of Andrew and Cortney Galbraith, died Saturday at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.
Lori Robertson, a family friend and manager of the Hope Welcome Center, said the Hope community is stunned by this loss, saying that, while the town has lost many notable residents this year, the loss of this little boy has been really difficult to bear.
“He was a beautiful child,” Robertson said. “He had a smile that would light up a room. He was just a sweet little boy.”
Chase and his family had recently returned from a Make a Wish Foundation trip to Disney World in Florida the week of Dec. 9 to 13 when Chase became ill and was taken for emergency treatment, said family friend Christy Holzer, who had supported fundraising efforts to help defray the family’s medical expenses. When the family returned to Indianapolis that week, Chase went directly to Riley for more chemotherapy, Holzer said.
Visitation: 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Norman Funeral Home, 604 Main St., Hope.
Funeral: 11 a.m. Friday at Columbus Free Methodist Church, 1511 22nd St., Columbus
Hope residents have rallied around the family, participating in fundraisers throughout this year to help cover the costs of Chase’s medical treatments in Indianapolis. Events included a Chillin’ for Chase walk, a fundraising fish fry dinner and silent auction.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Norman Funeral Home in Hope. Chase’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Columbus Free Methodist Church, 1511 22nd St. The funeral is scheduled on what would have been Chase’s third birthday.
Social media was filled Monday with messages of support for the family and shared photos of Chase and his family. Holzer said hundreds of people are expected for the visitation and funeral, as Chase’s story has touched complete strangers, who turned out to participate in events to help the family.
Sara Galbraith, Chase’s aunt, said family members were coping as well as possible and leaning on each other while mourning the loss. Friends and people who knew of Chase’s story have reached out by phone, letters and social media to let the family know of their support.
“There are so many people out there who loved him in the short amount of time he was here,” she said. “He was the bravest little boy I ever knew.”
Chase was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia last Christmas Eve and spent four weeks in treatment at Riley at the time. He endured his first 10-day round of chemotherapy, a platelet transfusion, spinal taps and bone marrow aspirations. He faced at least three more rounds of chemotherapy during 2013.
Robertson said Chase reached remission this summer, and one of the moments being remembered Monday was the boy ringing a special “remission bell” at Riley Hospital to celebrate reaching that milestone. That moment gave supporters a great deal of hope for the future, but the leukemia returned and more chemotherapy treatments were needed, Robertson said.
That additional chemotherapy did not work as well as had been hoped, Holzer said.
In order for Chase to have had the bone marrow transplant, he had to be in remission because the leukemia would attack the new bone marrow, Robertson said.
Chase’s 5-year-old brother Tristian was a perfect match for the transplant, but Chase did not reach remission again to allow the transplant to proceed.
“He (Chase) and his brother were the best of friends,” Robertson said.
There was talk about attempting to gain admission to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Holzer said, but Chase’s condition became progressively worse through the past week.
“They kind of knew it was getting close,” Holzer said of the family’s vigil at the hospital.
On Wednesday, the family was offered the choice to move Chase to the intensive care unit or allow him to stay in a room with them, and they opted to share Chase’s final moments together.
Family friends have put together a video tribute to Chase and plan a balloon sendoff at the funeral. Holzer noted that the arrangements for the funeral have been particularly difficult as they come a year after the boy’s leukemia diagnosis.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Melissa Markel, Chase’s pediatric oncologist, said Chase was one of only about 500 children in the U.S. who are diagnosed with this type of leukemia every year.
Holzer said Chase will be remembered as a fun-loving, smiling boy who was always a joy to be around.
“We used to joke with Cortney that by choosing ‘Chase’ as his name that she would be chasing after him all the time,” she said. “And that’s the way he was.”
Despite the chemotherapy and medical treatments, Chase never lost his optimistic attitude and happy approach to live, his aunt said.
“He was such a happy baby ... so happy even through all of it,” Sara Galbraith said. “Even despite all of the hardship, he found joy in every day.”
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