Chris Hecker with son, Matthew Liam.
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The good news for Matthew Liam Hecker, age 18 months, is that doctors expect a full remission and recovery on his Hodgkin's lymphoma, first diagnosed in late June.
Until the anticipated recovery by July 2015, however, the boy faces regular chemotherapy treatments and medications, following four surgeries he has endured so far.
While handling Matthew’s treatment and recovery, parents Chris and Vivian Hecker, owners of SB Executive Transportation in Santa Barbara, are also raising two siblings, running a chauffeured transportation business, and trying to keep a household afloat. Three times per week, the couple takes Matthew 100 miles south to Santa Monica for check-ups and treatments.
Chris Hecker has posted a prolific stream of updates on his Facebook page during the last few months, drawing wide limousine industry sympathy, prayers, support and good will. He recently set up a donation site for Matthew after insurance coverage temporarily ran out on medical bills.
The financial needs are fairly straightforward: Health insurance coverage has maxed out until September, leaving the family with $6,500 in medical bills. A grant from the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, where Matthew is being treated, kicks in starting in September. The Heckers also are appealing their coverage limits to Tricare and Blue Cross, which hold the health insurance policy for Matthew.
As of Friday morning, individual donors, many from the limousine industry, have contributed $1,165; an anonymous donor has pledged another $1,000; a family friend pledged $2,100 Friday morning at a local Chamber of Commerce event. That brings the total to about $4,255 toward the estimated $6,500 amount due.
The medical challenges of treating a baby with cancer have been nothing less than horrifying and heart-rending for the Heckers, as the ordeal started in March when they suspected Matthew had simply suffered a spider bite. A bite mark had popped up on his neck overnight, leading them to believe he just needed a quick visit to the pediatrician.
For the next two months, the Heckers faced a long series of tests, visits and evaluations with multiple ear, nose and throat specialists who could not pinpoint Matthew’s exact condition. Finally, an X-ray of his lungs at UCLA in June, revealed a tumor the size of a small ball in his left lung and multiple tumors along his neck. Doctors diagnosed little Matthew with Stage 1 Hodgkin's lymphoma, on the verge of transitioning to Stage 2. Subsequent surgeries successfully removed the neck tumors, but a baby’s lungs are too delicate for surgery, so the lung tumor will be treated via medications and a liquid chemotherapy suited for babies.
“We had four surgeries on neck to remove tumors, and at first they wanted to operate on his left lung, but they are not willing to take the risk,” Hecker told LCT. “You should be at least two years old for that type of surgery. Because it was caught early stage, his prognosis is to be 100% cured.”
Fund information: Medical Bills For My Son