Kyle Hicks is packing his laptop, his video games and whatever else might keep him occupied over the summer as he prepares to leave Saturday for Minneapolis, Minn., and a long-awaited bone marrow transplant.
Hicks said goodbye to friends at a send-off party Thursday night. His friends' well wishes echo a community that has rallied for Kyle since he was born 20 years ago with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa. The disease makes his skin extremely fragile, and he has to undergo a daily regimen to cleanse and cover the blisters that blanket his body, which is the size of a 7-year-old's.
A pioneering treatment for the disease requires a bone marrow transplant. Because Hicks' insurance would not initially pay for it, fundraisers were held over the years for the transplant. But last November, Hicks and his mother, Jerree, received the news that the insurance company would cover the transplant.
"My mom cried when insurance said they were going to pay for the transplant," Hicks wrote in his blog. "I couldn't speak when I got the news or stop smiling!"
So now he and his mother are headed to Minneapolis. Hicks will begin pre-testing at the University of Minnesota Medical Center on Monday and will check in May 6 to undergo chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant, which is scheduled for May 16.
"I'm really excited. I'm really happy about it," Hicks said this week amid preparations to leave. "I'm feeling really good."
Hicks' supporters are, too, he said.
"Everybody is so thrilled, so happy and very thankful that I'm finally getting it. The reaction's been great."
Hicks said the nearly $400,000 that has been raised will go toward expenses that insurance will not cover. He and his mother will fly out on a private plane Saturday to prevent him from being exposed to illness, and they will stay at an apartment near the hospital this summer. He said they hope to be back in Wichita sometime in August.
Hicks thanked the community and said what people can do for him now is check out his website, think good thoughts and pray for him. His blog and a guestbook where people can respond are on the website www.cotaforkyleh.com.