“The Champ”

By  | June 15, 2018 | Filed under: News

Over the last couple of weeks, I have written about my trip to Dothan, Alabama to attend the Continental Championship Wrestling Fanfest on May 12th, 2018.  While there was glitz, bright lights and fun had by all, there was a serious side that I must write about now.  Approximately two hours before the Fanfest Meet & Greet began; Continental Owner/Wrestling Legend & Promotor “Cowboy” Dennis Gale called me over to a table where he was talking to a man and lady.

Dennis introduced me to Donnie and Wendy Qualls.  Wendy told us the story about their Grandson, Hayden.   Hayden is an eleven year old little boy with Leukemia.  He has fought it twice but is back the third time.  They are giving him experimental drug treatment where Blood Palates are exchanged out.  Hayden is only the second person to have this treatment done in Alabama.  They tell him that he is getting “Ninja Cells.”.

I have to tell you that Dennis and I got a little teary eyed during our conversation.  The Qualls told us that Hayden has a nickname that everyone calls him.  They call him “the Champ” because he has fought so hard through this battle he has had.  We also found out that Hayden is a big wrestling fan, especially Road Warrior Animal, who would be at the Fanfest.  The Qualls wanted to know if there was any way possible that Hayden could meet Animal.

Dennis told the Qualls that he would make it happen.  He asked me to shoot some photos so that Hayden would have them to which I gladly agreed.  Plans were made on what to do when Hayden got there.  After the Qualls left I spoke with Dennis for a few minutes about the situation.  I came up with the idea of having the Legends having their picture made with Hayden.  Dennis agreed and told me to “make it happen.”

Road Warrior Animal, Hayden, Hayden’s Sister and Dad

I went around to the different wrestling legends and told them the story about Hayden.  All agreed that they would take their picture with Hayden.  Road Warrior Animal arrived shortly thereafter and Dennis spoke with him about Hayden.  When Hayden arrived at the arena, Animal got a chair and sat Hayden behind the table where Animal was signing autographs.

 

Road Warrior Animal is a big star still today in the Professional Wrestling business.  It was amazing to see this 6 foot 2 inch, 305 lb man squatting down and talking to this little boy.    Hayden stayed with Animal pretty much all the time during the Meet & Greet portion of Fanfest.

 

Bullet Bob Armstrong with Hayden

Several other wrestlers came by to meet Hayden.  They gave him words of encouragement as well as taking their picture with him.

 

Hayden was able to watch the matches from good seats.  The little boy had a great time.   However, this night was the last of the fun for some time to come.  Hayden’s Dad, Brian, told Dennis and I that Hayden would be going to the Children’s Hospital the next week for the next round of treatment.  I felt sorry for the little guy.

After coming home, I started doing some research on Hayden and his condition.  On one of the cancer websites, I found the following information:

    “Leukemia is cancer of blood-forming tissues, including bone marrow. Many types exist such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

 

   Many patients with slow-growing types of leukemias don’t have symptoms. Rapidly growing types of leukemia may cause symptoms that include fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections, and easy bleeding or bruising.

 

    Treatment is highly variable. For slow-growing leukemias, treatment may include monitoring. For aggressive leukemias, treatment includes chemotherapy that’s sometimes followed by radiation and stem-cell transplant”

 

Hayden’s treatment is the aggressive type of treatment.  While looking at Hayden and his dad’s webpage on Feacebook, I found the following on a GoFundMe link:

 

    “Bryan Qualls, a technician at BMW Birmingham has an 11 year old son, Hayden, who loves WWE and the Auburn Tigers.  3½ years ago, Hayden was diagnosed with leukemia.  Hayden beat leukemia and was cancer free for almost 2 years; however, in March 2017 he relapsed.  This didn’t keep Hayden down, who refers to himself as ‘The Champ’, and he went on to win his second fight against leukemia.  Unfortunately, last month doctors confirmed Hayden had once again relapsed which led to ‘The Champ’ being checked back into the hospital for his third fight against leukemia.”


“Bryan is a single father who hasn’t left Hayden’s bedside, and also has a 13 year old daughter.  As you can imagine, the hospital bills have mounted and being not able to work because you are at the hospital with your son has created financial difficulty.  Please join Sonic Automotive in supporting Bryan and his family.”

I contacted Bryan asking for a summary of Hayden’s condition.  Bryan sent me the following:

  “  So Hayden was diagnosed with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on Sept. 4 2014 after seeing his pediatrician for a fever and bruising/petechiae. His doctor drew blood and sent samples to Hematology and Oncology at Children’s of Alabama where they immediately recognized abnormal cells in his sample that looked like leukemia blast cells. We were told to go immediately to Children’s. We were admitted into the hospital. On Sept. 5 he was in surgery having his port put in place. A lumbar puncture with chemo and bone marrow biopsy were also performed. 

   The first step in protocol was to begin a very aggressive 30 day induction treatment consisting of a combination of chemo drugs. The goal is to have the patient in remission after the initial 30 days. We spent about five days in the hospital. After being home for a few days Hayden woke up in the middle of the night with extreme pain in his lower extremities and abdominal pain. After getting to the emergency room, it was determined that he had developed pancreatitis from one of the medicines, pegaspargase, he was taking.

     The leg pain was neuropathy. These are common side effects of treatment. The pegaspargase was immediately stopped and gabapentin was already being taken for the neuropathy. All this began an almost four month stay in the hospital that consisted of many, many, many infections that comes along with treatment due to the fact of a compromised immune system. Meningitis, fungal and bacterial infections just to name a few.

     After the initial 30 day treatment it was determined that the leukemia was still present in Hayden’s bone marrow and he was not considered to be in remission. So we continued treatment. On two occasions his port line tested positive for infection and had to be removed and a new port placed. Around the end of November he FINALLY turned the corner and began showing progress and a week before Christmas 2014 we were released from the hospital.

    In January 2015 Hayden was officially considered to be in remission. The treatment that followed consisted of several different phases with the ultimate goal of getting to maintenance phase. It was during this time that Hayden began to watch professional wrestling. I honestly believe that he began drawing his strength from this. His favorite wrestler quickly became John Cena and we adopted his mottos of “Never Give Up” and our play on his “U can’t C Me” with “Cancer Can’t C Me”.

     During this treatment Hayden did pretty well with a few hospital stays which was expected. In July 2015 Hayden was in maintenance. He continued to do well with treatment. It was during this time in November of 2015 that Make-A-Wish granted Hayden’s wish to meet the cast of Duck Dynasty. This was very important part of his treatment because for one week it was like he wasn’t sick.

    Then, in February 2017, during a routine doctor visit with lumbar puncture leukemia blast cells were found in a sample of his spinal fluid. Once again Hayden would have to go through a very aggressive 30 day induction treatment. this was the point when Hayden took on the persona of “The Champ”. This was another way that we found to keep his morale boosted which I believe is very important during times like these. within two weeks the spinal fluid was clear of blast cells and what was suppose to be a month stay in the hospital was over in two weeks.

    After 30 days Hayden was once again in remission and just like the first time around this treatment consisted of multiple phases. one difference this time around was we had a choice between normal combination chemotherapy or a new study drug called blinatumimab. We chose, and Hayden qualified for, the blinatumimab which we felt would be a better option due to the fact that it was one drug rather than a combination of multiple chemo drugs. This treatment meant that Hayden would be hooked up to a small pump and the blinatumimab would be continuously infused for 27 days. It was after the first round of blinatumimab that thing began to get bad. From June to August 2017 Hayden was in the hospital with multiple trips to the ICU on a breathing machine due to septic shock from a compromised immune system due to treatment.

    It was also during this time that he experienced a neurological side effect from the blinatumimab. It was determined to not continue the blinatumimab and skip him ahead to maintenance therapy since there had not been any signs of the disease in months. The toll of all the years of treatment was beginning to affect Hayden and his body. He had developed gall stones that were causing a lot of abdominal pain so his doctors felt it necessary to remove his gall bladder. From September to December 2017 Hayden was doing pretty well with everything and then he began to not act like himself. I took him into clinic and we were admitted into the hospital with fever. While in the hospital Hayden began to experience respiratory failure and was back in ICU on a ventilator.

     While in ICU he began to retain fluid and had to be put on dialysis. Because of all of the recent issue that Hayden had been experiencing it was decided that after his cranial radiation treatment they would discontinue his treatment. So, in January 2018, after cranial radiation, treatment was stopped to allow his body to heal. Then, on March 22, 2018, during a routine clinic visit lab work once again showed signs of leukemia blast cells. Hayden had once again relapsed. Further results from a lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy also showed signs of leukemia. So now He is engaging in his third battle against cancer. He is currently waiting to begin a new therapy known as CAR T Cell Therapy.

I am proud to say that the donation on the GoFundMe Page had met the desired amount.  During Hayden’s stay after the Fanfest, Bryan posted the following updates:

 

   “It didn’t take long for the fevers to come. The Champ has had fevers all day but they were expecting this and are closely monitoring him. They are also keeping a close watch on his blood pressure. They’re also a risk of neurological side effects so they are asking him random questions throughout the day. We  idn’t ask for any of this but if God brings you to it, He will get you through .”

“May 15 at 10:40am · Instagram

The Champ just got his “Ninja Cells” infused. These are the cells that are going to fight the leukemia cells. It is mind blowing that medicine as advanced to the point that things like this are even possible. He is the 2nd one to have this done in the state. It’s only fitting that he would be one of the first ones to have this done here.  “

 “20 mins · Instagram · 

The Champ is on day 4 of fevers. All blood cultures are not growing anything at this time. The medical team is confident that it’s his body adjusting to the therapy. There is a Royal Rumble (battle royal) going on inside his body right now. The Champ is feeling crummy but always has a smile and a thumbs up for his fans.”

 

24 mins · Instagram · 

Day 5 is turning out to be the hardest yet. The Champ has had a fever all day and has caused him to see things. Just like any obstacles in life, it will get harder before it gets better. After the darkest night always comes a brighter day. I am confident that even though it’s hard now, The Champ will come out victorious! There will come a day that, because of these brave children, no child will suffer from cancer again “

 

 

4 mins · Instagram · 

Up and ready to get the day started with scans

The Champ had a seizure last night. He battled fevers of 103 and higher all day and was miserable. His medical team was prepared for this and did a phenomenal job executing their game plan. He is in PICU for now and is doing very good. Scans from last night look good and don’t show anything concerning. Now we just continue to wait, watch and continue pushing forward as he continues to kick the crap out of can

 

The Champ has been making some progress since his seizure the other night. He

The ladies can’t keep their lips off of The Champ

was moved from PICU yesterday. He is still having some fevers but they are not as high as they were. He is still experiencing some discomfort/pain. He will have a CT scan today to make sure we are not missing anything. His medical team is reaching out to Palliative Care to make sure they are doing everything they can for pain control and neurology for any neurological issues. Thank you for all your prayers and please continue. The Champ is very resilient but he still has a long way to go”

The Champ is checking out of this place!!! And…he’s taking off his own dressing!!! See you Monday

    After thinking about it when I got home, I decided to do something for the Champ. I have contacted my Military and Law Enforcement friends.  I have a picture for each one to sign.  We are also collecting patches, autographed pictures and other things for the Champ.  I am going to take them to him on July 7th in Dothan at the next Wrestling Matches.

 

If you are L.E. or Military, currently or previous, come by Southern Heritage Gun & Pawn in Tuscumbia and sign the print for Hayden.

 

Keep fighting Champ!   We are all pulling for you.

 

 


  Bobby Inman has retired twice from Law Enforcement after 21 years of Service.  He is a Consultant for Southern Heritage Gun & Pawn in Tuscumbia.   He has articles published in Law & Order Magazine, Police Marksman Magazine, Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement Magazine as well as several published ebooks on Amazon, Kobo Writing, as well as Nook (Barnes & Noble).  He is owner of Poopiedog, an Animal Rescue Dachshund, who is his constant companion.   He is a Senior Investigative Reporter for the Quad Cities Daily

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