HUDSON — Derek Grabast’s second-grade classmates at St. John Elementary School want to help.
“If we could help him walk — that would be awesome,” one youngster said.
The 8-year-old son of Brenda and Ken Grabast of Hudson who has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy inspires everyone who meets him. That’s why virtually everywhere you go in St. John — there’s a collection jar for Derek.
“Derek has a gift — his friends give him high fives and give him ‘knuckles.’ ” Brenda said. “They want to some day see Derek play and walk with them. They are excited to help him.”
Brenda and Derek say they are also willing to do whatever it takes to help their son enjoy a more productive life. That’s why they don’t mind asking for help to finance a $25,000 expense for Derek’s stem-cell treatment in Dusseldorf, Germany.
They are well on their way to meeting their goal starting with a series of fund-raisers in Stafford and Barton counties.
“I’m awfully proud and it’s been hard to ask for help — but I know in my heart that’s it’s the right thing to do,” Brenda said. “There is no way we can do this without help.”
Brenda is convinced children like Derek are blessed spiritually, a trade-off for their bodies not working.
“I feel like an angel is always watching him,” Brenda said. “I see him staring up at the ceiling and he’ll just giggle. I think it’s a joke between him and his guardian angel.”
Brenda tries to be strong, but cries easily when she thinks about Derek’s fate. He can’t talk and isn’t able to walk. But Brenda said a baby-sitter’s daughter, Miranda Morr, coined a phrase that sums up Derek’s struggle to communicate.
“Just because I can’t talk doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say.”
She is passionate about helping her son.
“He’s really a happy little man,” she said. “His smile is infectious. He’s my little angel with blue eyes. Some day, I would love my son to tell me, ‘I love you mom.’ ”
Ken is amazed by how Derek brings out the best in people, all without saying a word.
“He’s an amazing little guy and everything he does, he’s happy,” Ken said. “He like any other kid. When you say, ‘No,” he gets upset. But that doesn’t last long. He’ll get a medical treatment that is painful and he’s happy again in as if nothing ever happened.”
The stem-cell procedure in Germany extracts and treats patients with their own adult stem cells. The stem cells are removed from a patient’s hip, cleaned and checked for viability. The cells are injected into the cerebral fluid of the brain where they take hold to form new brain stem cells.
At one point, Brenda and Ken were resigned to the fact that their son’s fate was “just the way it was going to be.”
But storybook endings start with a beginning. Theirs started in January at Rosewood Ranch when a horse therapy worker gave her a glimmer of hope. Debbie Smith told Brenda that stem-cell treatment had showed remarkable results for Christopher Schneweis, a youngster from Barton County.
The Grabasts discovered the XCell-Center in Germany performs stem cell replacement that reports an 80 percent success rate for autism, a 70 percent success rate for cerebral palsy and a 60 percent success rate for minimizing grand mal seizures.
The family submitted all medical information and test results relating to Derek, which took several weeks.
The confirmation e-mail that Derek would be accepted at the XCell-Center came at 2:30 a.m. Feb. 27.
“It was pretty close to the best moment of my life,” Brenda said. “I e-mailed everyone I knew.”
Once Brenda got official approval, her outlook for Derek has improved dramatically.
“Now, there is a chance for Derek to get better and enjoy a better life,” Brenda said. “We’ve heard from people all across the U.S. Every story I hear is inspiring and gives us that much more hope for the future.”
Life for Derek was normal for a little over a year. After standing and babbling, he started to regress physically. Dr. Vanaja Obi, a pediatrician, referred Derek to Dr. Sushash Shah, a neurologist. He diagnosed Derek with non-verbal autism and spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy when he was 27 months old.
Their biggest scare was when 4-year-old Derek endured his first grand mal seizure.
“After that happened, I didn’t sleep for weeks,” Brenda said. “All you can do is take care of him and help him in whatever way you are able. It’s sad, but now it’s normal to go through that.”
Brenda said classmates and school personnel in St. John have been exceptional, highlighted by paraprofessional Michelle Huston.
By nature, Derek is cautious of strangers. But Derek and Michelle somehow made an instant connection. Huston works one-on-one with helping Derek read, spell and do math on the computer. He communicates via sign language.
“Derek does not like people he does not know, but he reached out to Michelle,” she said. “They have been best buddies ever since the first time they met. His classmates interact with him and are happy to push his wheelchair and make him part of the group.”
Taking care of Derek is a full-time task, but they are lucky to have a home right next to the Stafford County Flour Mills in Hudson where Brenda and Ken work.
Several community-wide fund-raisers have been planned to help the Grabasts reach their goal. The Derek Grabast Fund c/o Ken and Brenda Grabast has been established at UMB Bank, 102 N. Main St., Hudson, KS, 67545.
DEREK GRABAST FUND-RAISERS
March 27 — Great Bend Bake Sale, Wal-Mart. Sponsor, Barton County Upward Bound
April 1 — St. John Prime Rib Dinner, Band, VFW. Sponsor, St. John I.O.O.F. Lodge, Sunset Limited. Call Todd Wycoff (620) 546-3799; Jarrod Taylor (620) 617-3946; Troy Fisher (620) 617-4702.
April 2 — Macksville Soup Supper at Edna’s, Sponsor Edna’s.
April 9 — St. John Spaghetti Supper at cafeteria. Sponsor, The Committee to Help Derek Get to Germany. Call Jill Rockenbach (620) 546-4933; Teresa Miller (620) 546-4920.
April 10 — Hudson Texas Hold ‘Em, Pitch Tournaments, Community Hall. Sponsors, city of Hudson, Hudson Firefighters, Wheatland Cafe. Call Debbie Haddon (620) 458-3045; Pattie Fenskuy 458-4742.
April 15 — Great Bend Hog Feed and Prairie Rhythms Entertainment at the American Legion Argonne Post, 1011 Kansas Ave.