Owen is improving

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

Owen Hogan, the boy with the serious illness whom many Kearny supporters have rallied round with fundraisers for medical and other expenses, has received a desperately needed operation.

And, so far, so good, said Owen’s dad, Tim Hogan, a New York City firefighter, whose wife, Kathleen, is from Kearny.

Owen, who celebrated his third birthday on May 27, had a peripheral stem cell transplant on Jan. 14. Before that, he had undergone months of immunosuppressive therapy for the treatment of his ailment, diagnosed in May 2013 as severe aplastic anemia.

Tim Hogan said the identity of the male donor – found through the National Bone Marrow Registry – is being kept confidential at this time.

“The primary treatment for Owen – trying to get his body to reproduce healthy blood cells – had failed so the transplant was his only chance for survival,” his dad said.

The operation, which was performed by doctors at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, involved an infusion of stem cells collected from the donor. The procedure took somewhere close to two hours, Hogan said.

“Owen needs one more transfusion to complete the process,” Tim said.

Doctors have been encouraged so far by the results, Hogan said. “[Owen’s] numbers (blood platelets, hemoglobin, white blood cells) have been going up, which is a good sign,” he said, “but he also had two viral infections after the transplant – CMV (cytomegalovirus) and Epstein-Barr.”

But, since then, Hogan said, the Epstein-Barr has gone away and the CMW is “very low” and “the doctors have got Owen on medications so it looks pretty good.”

“The doctors say the first 100 days after the transplant are the most critical period and with the exception of those two viruses, we haven’t had any major complications,” Tim said.

And, Hogan added, “If we hit a year [with no big problems], the prognosis is [Owen] goes on to have a normal life.”

It’s been a grueling ordeal for the entire family, including Owen’s healthy, younger brother, Ethan. “My wife and I were in the hospital 145 days with Owen,” Hogan said. During that time, he’s had more than 40 blood platelet procedures and about 20 blood transfusions.”

At the boy’s low point, “He was literally catching a cold away from dying,” Hogan said.

Now, however, all signs point to a bright future for Owen, he said.

Hogan said that he and Kathleen will be forever grateful for the love shared by the Kearny community. “Kearny has been unbelievable with their support and love,” he said. “It’s been a huge help in tough times.”

At a benefit held at the former Kearny Boystown facility in May, relatives, friends and well-wishers raised a total of about $30,000 for the beleaguered Hogan family, according to Kearny’s Bill Burns, Kathleen’s dad.

“The Kearny Fire Department alone took three tables,” Burns said. “We raffled off a football signed by [N.Y. Giants quarterback] Eli Manning, there were hockey pucks autographed by Devils and Rangers players, autographed basketballs from the Nets.”

Burns said his daughter and son-in-law were on edge for months, uncertain what the future held for Owen. “They’ve been through a lot of pressure, dealing with this day after day,” Burns said. “Because of all the time they were spending with Owen at the hospital, they had to rent a house nearby and a retired New York fireman helped move them in.”

“It’s been a lot of hell for the family. But now Owen’s doing very good,” Burns said.

For many months, because of his fragile condition and hypersensitivity to germs, Owen was almost like a “bubble boy,” but since his favorable response to the transplant, doctors have gradually relaxed those restrictions, even allowing Owen to travel.

“He was here [in Kearny] for dinner with us [one night last week],” Burns said.

Given his dad’s occupation, it’s no surprise that among his favorite things, Owen “loves playing with toy fire trucks – all kinds of trucks,” Burns said. “He also likes music, especially the song, ‘Hotel California.’ Pancakes is one of his favorite foods. And he likes ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ TV show.”

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