To family and friends, 5-year-old Kipton Krumland is a gem. Today, you would never know that as a baby he relied on the life-saving donations of blood and platelet donors to fight (and beat) leukemia.
When Kipton was just 5 months old, his parents, David and Erin Krumland, noticed Kipton was especially irritable. They believed he had an ear infection but also noticed he was paler than usual and that he bruised easily. Their pediatrician confirmed the ear infection but wanted to do some further testing. The family had barely made it home to Eagle when they received a phone call from their pediatrician encouraging them to return to their doctor’s office in Lincoln immediately.
Kipton was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, and the oncologist wanted to start chemotherapy right away. But in order to start treatment, Kipton needed several platelet transfusions. His platelet count was at 9,000—and the normal range is 150,000 to 450,000.
“They explained that Kipton’s platelet count was so low that one small cut could be deadly,” Erin said.
That was the beginning of Kipton’s harrowing journey to fight cancer. He spent several months in and out of the hospital, undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy and receiving blood and platelet transfusions.
Erin, who was applying to the dental program at Southeast Community College, dropped out of school to stay by Kipton’s side. David maintained his construction job while caring for the couple’s other two children.
“We were scared and overwhelmed,” Erin said. “I needed to be with Kipton, which meant I had to be far away from my other children. We basically had to put our life on hold and continuously hope for the best.”
Three months after starting treatment, doctors determined Kipton would need a bone marrow transplant as well as chemotherapy and radiation to rid his body of cancer. The transplant successfully removed the cancer, but Kipton’s release from the hospital was delayed when he developed graft-vs.-host disease (GvHD) – when new donor cells attack healthy cells in the patient. He began steroid treatment and four months later was able to go home.
With a highly compromised immune system, Kipton was very susceptible to infections and illnesses and wasn’t able to attend daycare. Erin continued to care for Kipton at home, watching him grow stronger and healthier. One year post-transplant, Kipton’s body was still free of cancer, and he was now able to do the things that other 2year olds do. Excited and relieved to return to a life a little more normal, Erin started to think about the future.
“I knew as we closed in on one year of Kipton being healthy, I would have to make a decision of what to do next. Making life the best it can be for all my children has always been my focus. I decided early in Kipton’s treatment I wanted to be able to help people like the nurses who helped me. I would have not made it through our struggle without them and wanted to be able to do for families what those nurses did for mine,” Erin said.
Two years later, Erin graduated from Southeast Community College as an RN. Her goal is to eventually work in pediatric oncology, helping other families fight the same fight her family did.
As for Kipton, today, he is an energetic, healthy and cancer-free 5-year-old. He enjoys soccer and t-ball like his big brother and sister and loves Kindergarten. He’s sweet, caring and very considerate of his classmates . . . and just a little spoiled.
The family will never forget the many people, including blood and platelet donors, who helped Kipton fight this battle.
“Kipton wouldn’t be here without blood donations,” Erin said, with tears in her eyes. “You can’t thank people enough for that. There are not enough words. It’s something so simple that almost anybody can do. We thank all those people who take time out of their day to donate. It’s because of that decision that my child is alive today.”
For the past five years, the Krumland family has been trying to return the favor by hosting blood drives as part of the Nebraska Community Blood Bank’s Hometown Heroes campaign. The campaign, held each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, encourages communities to host blood drives during the summer months, a time when the need for blood donors is great. Blood drive sponsors that meet collection goals can earn money to use toward funding a project within their community. Kipton’s Krew blood drives have raised nearly $900, collected 116 units of blood and have used the funds to support the Eagle Fire Department, Alvo Eagle Rec and Eagle Early Education.
“The Eagle community was amazing while this was going on. They helped with the children, brought meals and hosted fundraisers, among other things. Hometown Heroes gives us an opportunity to give back to the community that gave so much to us.”