By Emily Gerchman
Jack Callahan will turn two years old this March 8th. He’s a fan of climbing on things and getting into trouble. He’s quite a chatterbox according to his mom and dad. He also loves Sesame Street and is always up for a good dance party.
Molly Callahan describes her youngest son as a funny and happy little kid. Jack is also a tough little guy, and at his young age, he’s much braver than most.
It was around this time last year, Molly noticed Jack was acting just a little bit off.
“He had signs of ear infections, like really high fever, really lethargic, crying all the time and that just wasn’t him at all,” said Molly.
Jack was diagnosed with a double ear infection. But even with an antibiotic, his current symptoms persisted and new ones popped up. He would suffer from nosebleeds on occasion. Molly and her husband Dan also noticed Jack had bruising on parts of his body that just “didn’t make sense.” So they took their son for a visit to his pediatrician, Doctor Jeffrey Zero.
“He is the best doctor because he doesn’t scare you,” Molly explained. “He’s very mellow but firm, and his demeanor changed as soon as I pointed out the bruises.”
“So Jack and I went to get some blood work done, and they ordered it stat. A couple hours later, Doctor Zero called and said, ‘Okay, do you want to go to Danville, Hershey or CHOP?’”
Molly and Dan rushed their little boy to Geisinger Medical Center near Danville, the closest of the three options, and that’s where doctors ultimately diagnosed Jack with AML-M7 — a type of acute myeloid leukemia.
On and off, Molly, Dan, and little Jack spent 116 days in at Geisinger near Danville.
Dan Callahan had to put his job of selling homes with Jack Ruddy Real Estate on hold for a time. He’s also a seventh grade math teacher in the Dunmore School District. Thankfully Dunmore was able to get a sub whenever he needed to be with Jack or Jack’s older brother, Cooper.
Molly teaches art at Pocono Mountain, but being that she had just been off on maternity leave after having Jack, taking another leave of absence wasn’t an option.
“I would sleep in Danville, drive to the Poconos and teach, go back to Danville or Dunmore depending on if it was my night.”
Luckily for the Callahans, they had an army of family and friends in their corner — among them Dan’s mom, Maggie, Molly’s parents, Jack and Rosemary, and her sister Amy. They never hesitated to help them with whatever they needed, whenever they needed it.
“We just made it work,” said Molly. “It’s one of those things that people are always like ‘I don’t know how you did it’ and I’m like, I do. Anyone would do it, you just have to.”
During the months Jack spent at Geisinger, he went through four rounds of chemotherapy and had nine blood transfusions.
“When Jack was in day one, they gave him a blood donation right then,” Molly recalled. “He went from being gray and just laying on you to happy, smiley, waving. Just from one blood transfusion.”
“[Jack’s] brother turned four during this whole thing, and it was hard to explain what was going on… We joked it was ‘super hero blood.’ We’d say he’s getting Spiderman this time, and they’re gonna give him Captain America next time. The doctors actually…tell kids that now. Because it’s true. It really makes everything better.”
This past September, doctors delivered the happy news that Jack was MRD negative, meaning all the cancer cells were gone. Now happy and healthy, he’ll celebrate his second birthday on March 8.
“The oncologists have stressed you need to celebrate every milestone. Celebrate his birthday, a year since diagnosed, then like crazy celebrate when it’s a year in remission.”
Celebrate is exactly what the Callahans plan to do, while paying it forward at the same time.
A community blood drive in Jack’s name is planned from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 7 — one day before Jack’s birthday — at the Dunmore Community Center.
“Every time you donate blood you save 3 people’s lives. Well 9 people because he had 9 blood transfusions in the 100 days, 9 people saved Jack’s life,” said Molly. “…it’s such an easy thing to do, and the cost and nervousness and time have no comparison to what you’re doing for these kids and adults who need it.”
Due to the number of volunteers and equipment available, only 84 people will be able to donate at this event, and in typical Dunmore fashion, 74 people have already signed up as of February 26. So while walk-ins are welcome, interested parties are highly encouraged to pre-register online.
“The way everyone in this town cares about each other is one hundred percent why we live in this town. People are just willing to do anything for each other. So we’re not surprised at the outpouring we’ve gotten, but we’re certainly overwhelmed and humbled,” said Molly.
“If anything comes from all of this, I just can’t wait to see all the ways Jack pays it forward. We’re trying our best to give back in little ways, but there will never be enough to thank everyone for doing what they did for us.”
If you would like to take part in the first ever “JackAttack Blood Drive,” call 1-800-RED-CROSS for availability or visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.