The friendship between Paramedic Bobby Campbell and 9 year-old Brendon Tate is an unlikely one, but it’s one that will stand the test of time.
The pair met by chance this past July when Brendon was being seen in the emergency room at Clearlake Regional Medical Center in Webster, Texas. For several days, Brendon had been experiencing nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
After completing a CT scan, doctors found that Brendon had a small bowel obstruction. Because he would require surgery, his doctors requested that he be transported to a higher level of care. Brendon would be going to the Woman’s Hospital of Texas in Houston where one of their many specialties is pediatric care.
Because Brendon would be coming to their Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Woman’s dispatched a ground transport team to travel to Webster to pick him up. On duty that day was Paramedic Bobby Campbell, Nurse Casey Contreras, and Paramedic Alexandra Kontrimas.
The nearly 30-mile trip took the team around a half-hour to make. When they arrived at the hospital, they headed immediately to Brendon’s room to prepare him for the trek to Houston.
“Bobby was the first one in the room,” said Katherine. “Right away he started explaining everything to me and just something about him immediately made me feel comfortable.”
After walking through the entire transport process with Katherine and Brendon, the team set about placing a nasogastric tube into Brendon’s stomach via his nose. While the process for this placement is incredibly uncomfortable, it was necessary in order to stop Brendon’s vomiting and keep him from potentially breathing vomit into his airway and lungs.
“When we got there, I immediately pulled up a chair and got down on Brendon’s level, “said Bobby. “ I told him that I wasn’t going to lie to him, that the NG tube was not going to be fun. The entire time we were feeding the tube in, I was just talking in his ear telling him to keep calm, and that it would be over soon”
Once the team had Brendon fully prepped for transport, they loaded him and Katherine into the ambulance and departed for Houston. During the ride, Bobby and Brendon got the chance to get to know one another a bit better. They talked about football and even managed to share a few laughs despite Brendon’s discomfort.
“The kid has just got so much charisma,” said Bobby. “We talked a lot about football and all the things that kids like. He is just a fun boy to be around; he’s got a great outlook on life.”
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, they had arrived at the hospital in Houston where they would deliver Brendon into the care of Woman’s PICU Nurse, Carley Campbell – Bobby’s wife.
“It was a great feeling to be able to transfer care of Brendon over to my wife,” said Bobby. “The staff at Woman’s is amazing and my wife is a great nurse so it was an easy transition, and of course, Brendon fell in love with Carley right away.”
The following afternoon, a surgical team at Woman’s removed the obstruction from Brendon’s bowel. As Brendon recuperated, he made sure to tell everyone at the hospital about his new friend Bobby.
“From that night on, Brendon told anyone that would listen about Bobby,” laughed Katherine.
Sadly, despite the joy of having a new friend, Brendon didn’t feel good for very long. A month later, he was sick again with some of the same symptoms as before. This time, the Woman’s transport team would take him to another pediatric hospital for care.
When the team from Woman’s arrived, Brendon had high hopes that Bobby would be on shift, and when he wasn’t, Brendon decided to take matters into his own hands. He wrote Bobby a note and asked that the crew deliver it to his friend. In the note, Brendon asked Bobby to please call him because he really wanted to see him again.
“A few members of our crew came to see me after a call and they said ‘hey, you’ve got a little friend and he’s written you a note,” chuckled Bobby. “He asked me to call him and come see him, so I called the next day and talked to his mother.”
Bobby and Katherine arranged for him and his wife to come to the hospital the next day for a visit. What occurred in the time between their phone call and their visit though is something Brendon, his family, and Bobby will never forget.
Doctors had sent Brendon for another CT scan in hopes of locating what they thought was another obstruction. What they found instead though, was something no one was expecting.
“When they finished with his CT scan, they asked me to wait in the room because the doctor was going to call to talk to me about the results,” said Katherine. “They had found all of these grey spots on the screen. At first, they thought it might just be scar tissue so they sent Brendon in for a biopsy. The biopsy was supposed to last only an hour and it took three. They had found tumors. They had no explanations for how in July when they did his scan, nothing was there.”
Everyone’s worst fears were confirmed; Brendon had Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that appears in the body’s lymphatic system.
By the time Bobby and Carley arrived at the hospital, Brendon was already being transferred into an isolation room to help protect his immune system.
“There were so many people in and out of Brendon’s room that night – it was chaotic,” said Katherine. “As soon as Bobby walked in, you could feel it – everything changed. They were preparing to move Brendon into an isolation room and it was like he couldn’t have cared less, as long as Bobby was there with him.”
While that evening was an emotional rollercoaster for Brendon’s family, Brendon was more focused on spending time with his pal.
“It makes me feel good when Bobby comes to see me,” said Brendon. “I just really like him because me and him have stuff in common and he makes me feel calm.”
Their visits are more of a regular thing now. Every few weeks, Bobby and Carley head to the hospital to where Brendon is undergoing treatment.
“This kid is in a dogfight against cancer,” said Bobby. “Now more than ever, he just needs to know that he’s got people in his corner.”
From his family and friends to everyone at Woman’s AirCare and REACH Air Medical Services, Brendon has hundreds of people rooting for him as he takes on the fight of his life.