Fundraiser planned to benefit Newton child battling pancreatitis

Lindsay Robins
Staff Writer

Bryson Helms is a happy-go-lucky kid, honor roll student, and a bit of a jokester. He attends Balls Creek Elementary and is enjoying the fifth grade. He loves baseball, video games, and his dog. Bryson is just like any other child his age, except he’s gearing up for a life-changing surgery.

Bryson has chronic pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that causes scarring and permanent damage. The first flare up started in 2016. Bryson has been hospitalized seven times between then and now, suffering bouts approximately every three to six months. Chronic pancreatitis is rare in children and does not have a cure. Treatments include special diets, medications, and minor surgery. In some cases, children that have not responded well to treatments, have to undergo an intensive surgery called Total Pancreatectomy and Islet Autotransplantation (TPIAT). Bryson has been scheduled for the TPIAT on October 28th at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio.

TPIAT, according to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital website, “involves removing the entire pancreas and reconstructing the gastrointestinal tract. After the pancreas is removed, it is taken to an islet laboratory where the islet cells are extracted. These cells are responsible for producing insulin and other hormones. The islets are then transplanted into the patient’s body, where they continue to perform essential functions of the pancreas. Although TPIAT is a complex surgery, the operation can be life-changing for patients in whom previous interventions have not resulted in relief from the painful symptoms of pancreatitis”.

There are only three hospitals in the United States with experience performing this procedure on children, and Cincinnati is the most experienced. TPIAT is a ten-hour operation and will require at least three weeks of post-op hospitalization. If all goes well, Bryson should be home to celebrate Christmas or the New Year. Bryson’s grandparents, Jerry and Barbara Helms, who adopted him at the age of four, will stay in Cincinnati for the duration of his stay. While Bryson’s medical expenses are covered, his grandparents travel, living, and lodging expenses are not.
To help with those expenses, a barbecue fundraiser will be held on October 19th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Church in Newton. Niki Crooks Morton is organizing the event and Tommy Styers will be cooking. The fundraiser will have barbecue by the pound, as well as by the plate with slaw and beans.

While they are anxious about the operation and temporarily uprooting their lives, Jerry and Barbara are trying to focus on what this could mean for Bryson’s future.

“We have a lot of worries but if this is going to let him just be a kid, that’s all we want”, shared Barbara. “He loves baseball and getting out to ride bikes. He tires so easily now and I can’t wait for him to get back to the things he likes.”