Haihai, a two-year-old from Inner Mongolia in China, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia after turning one. Since then, he has become an internet sensation, but not because of his illness.
The toddler is amazing at using chopsticks. Videos of the boy eating dexterously with chopsticks have received thousands of views on Kuaishou, a Chinese platform that is similar to Instagram. He manages to expertly eat everything from dumplings to noodles to pancakes with chopsticks.
Haihai, who was diagnosed with the aggressive form of the cancer in January of 2018, had a platelet count of about 1,000. Platelets, which help blood clot, usually range from 150,000 to 450,000. In order to treat the toddler, his family travelled to Beijing and have spent nearly $140,000 on his treatment.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the lymphoid line of blood cells that is characterized by the growth of large numbers of immature lymphocytes. Symptoms include fatigue, pale skin color, fever, easy bleeding or bruising, enlarged lymph nodes, or bone pain.
As an acute leukemia, ALL progresses quickly and is usually fatal within weeks or months if untreated. ALL occurs most commonly in children between the ages of two and five. In the US, it is the most common and fatal cancer among children. Survival for children increased from less than 10% in the 1960s to 90% in 2015.
Soon after his diagnosis, Haihai’s grandmother was told she has terminal breast cancer, though she decided to forego the costly treatment in order to save Haihai. The family has also had to resort to borrowing money from friends and relatives, which has negatively impacted some of their relationships.
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Twin brothers Cole and Michael Malone know plenty about teamwork. Michael was a perfect-match donor for Cole's stem cell transplant to treat his acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). When Cole’s cancer relapsed in early 2018, he became one of the first Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s patients to undergo CAR T-cell therapy, a promising new treatment for some of the most challenging cases in pediatric ALL. Now Cole is back to doing what he loves: playing sports with his twin brother.Posted by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on Friday, February 22, 2019
In an effort to raise awareness as well as funds for his treatment, Haihai's parents have turned to social media to chronicle his life. On his Kuaishou site, which is primarily a food channel, the youngster documents his skills with chopsticks, as well as his treatment.
"He always behaves when he has to have his blood drawn or have an injection, but he can't help but be scared during lumbar punctures," his mother says. "After all, he's just a little boy. No matter how strong he is, such pain is hard to take."
So far, Haihai has had more than 30 lumbar injections in which a needle is inserted into the spine for tests. "The needles that pierce his little body also pierce my heart. The pain I feel is incomparable," his mother adds. Haihai’s page currently has 970,000 fans. Many have donated food, clothes, toys as well as money.