Teen’s valiant struggle inspires family to help others in same situation
Some day, perhaps today, a physician will cut a hole into a young patient’s skull, insert a catheter and feed in a toxic brew aimed at killing a nasty fungal infection of the brain, all without killing the patient.
The reason a physician can consider such treatment is Mike Bamford, a Grand Junction teenager who survived it before dying in December.
Bamford, who spent his last 15 months not at Grand Junction High School but in the oncology ward at Children’s Hospital in Aurora, suffered from a triple threat of conditions: cancer, cystic fibrosis and the fungal infection in his head.
“Mike received this treatment longer than anybody else had previously,” said his physician, Dr. Frank Accurso. “He did so with enough success that we believe this can be pursued for other children.”
That probably will amount to several times a year at the hospital, Accurso said.
The brew injected into Bamford’s brain, Voriconazole, is fatal to fungus, but the human host can suffer a range of unpleasant side effects, including transient visual disturbances, fever, rash, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, headache, sepsis, peripheral edema, abdominal pain, and respiratory disorder, all to achieve a single desirable outcome: survival.
Bamford didn’t survive the triple threat that he battled to a draw for more than a year, but his family is keeping alive his memory and working to pass along the things they learned and leaned on during their time at Children’s Hospital.
They established the Mike Bamford Foundation (www. MikeBamfordFoundation.org,) which Mike’s mother, Kelly; father, Rick; and sister, Natalie, hope to use to inspire and prop up families going through experiences they lived through.
“We lived 15 months of hell,” Kelly Bamford said of the weeks that the family lived a mountain range away from their Grand Junction home, spending their waking hours on Oncology-Hematology 7-West Floor.
There, they saw other families going through their own tortures.
Too often, Kelly said, parents don’t eat right, and sometimes not at all. Sometimes it’s because they couldn’t afford it, she said, remembering seeing one woman eating peanut butter from a cup as she waited for her child’s treatment.
Rick Bamford juggled time with his employer, City Market, in Grand Junction and valuable time with his family in Denver.
Not all families were so fortunate, and many lost jobs and houses as they struggled through the trial of treatment for their critically ill children, Kelly said.
The Bamfords hope to use the foundation to fund cafeteria gift cards to the families caring for children being treated there, as well as support Accurso’s clinic and the families that can’t afford medicine or equipment.
The foundation also plans to sponsor a scholarship to a graduating senior “who best exhibits the qualities of character that defined Mike’s life: courage, compassion, perseverance and strength in the face of adversity.”
Perhaps just as significant, the family hopes the foundation will help families preserve the emotional connection in the manner the Bamfords did, with a sterling-silver pendant bearing Mike’s thumbprint and name in large block print. Each of the Bamfords wears one.
Natalie saw the pendants in a catalog, “and I instantly thought of getting something that Mom and I could wear,” she said. “It evolved into everybody wanting one,” and now 60 or 70 family and friends have Mike’s thumbprint pendant, she said.
Through the foundation, the Bamfords hope to provide one pendant at no charge to the families of terminally ill children on Oncology-Hematology 7-West Floor. Proceeds from sales of additional pendants will go to support the pendant program.
Eventually, the Bamfords hope the foundation will do even more.
“We would love to fund research for a cure for CF and cancer,” Kelly said.
For Accurso, Mike Bamford’s long road is one well worth remembering.
“Mike endured tremendous suffering through this whole process, yet he never gave up,” Accurso said. “To me, he always expressed gratitude and hope.
“And to be able to express gratitude and hope, in the face of all the things we had to do to him over many months, is to me an inspiration.”