Help can come by the armful.
Just ask Nicholas Thornton and his family.
Nicholas has aplastic anemia, a rare condition in which the body’s bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells and platelets.
A local nonprofit group has raised about $14,000 toward the cost of a van to help with Nicholas’ transportation needs, but some enterprising kids have helped, too, by making and selling rubber-band bracelets.
Last January, Nicholas’ parents noticed some bruises that didn’t look quite right, so they took him to the doctor. Nicholas’ blood count was low; he was sent to Brenner Children’s Hospital where the diagnosis of aplastic anemia was made.
Weeks later, Nicholas suffered a brain hemorrhage and landed in intensive care. A second hemorrhage soon followed, and by May 1 he was transferred to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, where he began rehabilitation.
“At that point he was not talking and couldn’t move his left or right side,” said Nancy Thornton, his mother. “We were there for 128 days of rehab, and now he’s talking and moving his right side, but his left side is still immobile.”
In September, Nicholas received a bone-marrow transplant from his dad, Jon Thornton. Nicholas finally returned home Dec. 11, but with plenty of challenges. Nicholas has a powered wheelchair and needed a van for transportation to his numerous medical appointments.
People who know the Thorntons — and a whole lot of folks who do not — have been contributing help in the form of money and time.
One of those was Noah Fowler, one of Nicholas’ best friends and a fifth-grader at Piney Grove Elementary School.
Noah worked up the courage late last year to ask Principal Susan Frye if he could make and sell rubber-band bracelets to help his friend.
Frye said yes, and got the student council involved, too.
“It was a real heartfelt thing that a fifth-grade boy would come to my office,” Frye said. “It really touched my heart and so I was really taken — Noah’s humanity for a friend and wanting to help out.”
Noah and his companions have raised more than $650 for Nicholas and plan to continue the effort.
“I had a dream that I hope is one of those dreams that come true,” Noah said. He said that in his dream, he and some other kids were playing kickball.
“Nicholas wasn’t in a wheelchair,” Noah said. “He could kick and he wasn’t paralyzed anymore. I hope it comes true. I really hope he gets better.”
Lisa Fowler, Noah’s mom, said she’s proud of her son for making the bracelets to help his friend.
It turned out that Noah Fowler wasn’t the only one with the idea. Last September, Bryson King, a 9-year-old who attends Nicholas’ church in Colfax, decided he would make bracelets to raise money for Nicholas.
Wanda King, Bryson’s mom, said she received an email about bracelet materials from a craft shop.
“I felt like the Lord wanted us to make these bracelets,” Wanda King said. “We got the instructions and sat down and started making them.”
The Kings sold the bracelets at church functions and online and raised about $1,600. Some of the money was raised by Kaylee Coleman, who attends the same church and volunteered to make a more complicated type of rubber-band bracelet that folks were requesting.
Kisses4Kate, a nonprofit based in Jamestown, has collected about $14,000 toward a goal of $20,000 for the van. The Thorntons used earlier donations to make a down payment on a van but haven’t paid it off.
But there have also been donations of something equally as valuable as money — time.
Jon and Nancy Thornton are both teachers in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
When word got out that they needed help, fellow teachers donated sick days to them, enough that the Thorntons could stay home to care for Nicholas most of the time he has been sick.
Jon Thornton returned to his teaching job this week, and Nancy Thornton will return Feb. 1.
“We don’t qualify for home health care,” Nancy Thornton said. They are still trying to figure out how they are going to take care of Nicholas, who is 11, and work. Grandparents can help.
Jon and Nancy Thornton have been divorced for seven years, but are united in caring for their son.
Nicholas said he’s happy to be at home now and glad to know that people care.
“I am thankful,” he said. “All these people are my friends.”
Nancy Thornton said she is hopeful that Nicholas can recover the use of the left side of his body. Experts say children have a greater potential to “rewire” their brains.
“His personality is 100 percent the same,” she said. “He is talking and he carries on quite lengthy conversations. His vocabulary is the same.”
Even if the Thorntons receive $20,000, they will be about $14,000 short of the full cost of their van, Nancy Thornton said.
Although they’ve been fortunate that insurance has covered most of Nicholas’ medical expenses, she said, there are other costs ahead, including long-term medical needs and remodeling needed to make life easier for Nicholas.
Thornton said that as a teacher she is proud that so many children have wanted to help.
“In the news we hear about the apathy of today and about school kids not having a concern for others’ well-being,” she said. “This is hard for me to believe. I am a school teacher and see promise and good.”
Want to help?
To donate for the van drive, mail a check with a “Go Nick” notation to Kisses4Kate, PO Box 2266 Jamestown, NC 27282; donate at http://www.kisses4kate.org; or leave a donation at any Wells Fargo branch for the Nicholas Fund.
People can also donate to the Family Tragedy Fund in Nancy Thornton’s name at any office of the State Employees Credit Union.
A Facebook page called “Prayers for Nicholas Thornton” has updates on his condition and provides information on ways to help.