By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Geovani Galvez watches as his son sleeps, clutching his stuffed animals Macchiato and Luigi. In the quiet, Galvez thinks about his hopes and dreams for Levi, 6.
Maybe he’ll become a police officer. Or a chef. Or a LEGO master.
Levi is recovering from a stem cell transplant at Riley Children’s Health. It is the latest attempt to save the boy from the blood cancer that continues to threaten him, four years after it was first diagnosed.
Galvez, 29, donated 1 to 2 quarts of his own bone marrow in a procedure last week designed to encourage his son’s body to create new, healthy blood cells, thereby strengthening the kindergartner’s defenses against acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
It’s a miracle that Galvez was around to do that. In July of 2021, he attempted suicide as the weight of life grew too heavy to bear. But he is here now, physically and emotionally strong enough to carry his son through the next several months of healing.
It will take several weeks for the donated marrow to start producing new cells, but so far everything has gone according to plan, said Galvez, who hasn’t left his son’s side since he finished the donation process last week.
The two spend their days building LEGOs, playing Nintendo Switch and watching movies – Levi’s favorite is “Home Alone 3.”
In addition, there’s schoolwork for Levi, physical and occupational therapy sessions and art therapy. On the days his mom isn’t able to be there, he FaceTimes her and his little sister, Violet.
“The days go by pretty fast,” Galvez said.
Not all of the days have been filled with play, of course. Levi has felt “weak and crummy” some of the time, but Monday was a good day, dad said.
“He had plenty of energy for physical, occupational and art therapy.”
On Saturday afternoon, March 12, Levi’s kindergarten teacher is organizing Light It Up for Levi, encouraging law enforcement and other emergency responders to come by the hospital parking lot with their lights flashing, so Levi can see them from his hospital room.
“It’s a great way to show support for a kid who’s just been through too much,” Galvez said.
Also showing support are Academic Health Center police officers who work at IU Health Methodist Hospital, where Galvez works, and at Riley.
Officers Caleb Elliott and Isaac Parris visited Levi earlier this year at Riley and presented him with a junior police officer badge.
“He’s held onto that patch since he was discharged the last time,” Galvez said. “I think he really wants to be a police officer.”
But first, he needs to enjoy being a kid, his dad said, something cancer has stolen from him.
“I only wish I could be in his place and go through everything he’s going through. The nausea, fevers, headaches and the overall pain, it feels like it never ends. But if he’s strong enough, I have to stay strong for him.”
He tried to take his own life. Now he is saving his son - Geovani Galvez lacked purpose and hope that July day when he shot himself. Seven months later, he is donating bone marrow to help his little boy beat leukemia.