HOLY CROSS, Iowa — Common health problems kept plaguing James Hall in the months after his birth. It was when his left temple began swelling unexpectedly that doctors sent James and his family to Iowa City.
“Things moved really quickly,” said Ashley Hall, James’ mother.
Neumann’s Bar & Grill in Holy Cross held a benefit event Sunday for the Hall family of Dyersville — 30-year-old Nate, 36-year-old Ashley,14-month-old James, and James’ half siblings, 10-year-old Evan and 9-year-old Alaina Tyler.
James was diagnosed in May with Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare disorder in which the body produces too many dendritic cells, a component of the immune system. Only about one out of every 200,000 children develops the disorder during their lifetime, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The condition can cause the dendritic cells to combine to form tumors.
“It started when he was about 4 months old,” Ashley said. “He had this diaper rash that wouldn’t go away. When you go to a pediatrician and you look at it, it looks like an everyday rash. Then, he had ‘cradle cap’ — a rash on his scalp. It wasn’t thought to be anything serious at the time.”
James next had to contend with a series of ear infections, beginning when he was 10 months old.
“We battled that from February through May (of this year),” Ashley said.
James then had what appeared to be a simple bump on the head. When the bump grew, local doctors performed tests that indicated the presence of a 4-centimeter mass on James’ left temporal lobe. That sent the family to Iowa City while it was dealing with another family development.
“This is all being done after finding out that (Ashley) is pregnant again,” Nate said.
University of Iowa doctors performed a battery of tests.
“They scanned everywhere,” Ashley said.
Meanwhile, the mass in James’ head had grown to 5.1 centimeters within the course of a weekend.
“His ear was almost curling over,” Nate said. “Within a week (the size of the mass) had exploded.”
Doctors diagnosed James with Langerhans cell histiocytosis, shortened to LCH. The Halls had never heard of it before.
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” Ashley said. “The first two weeks was extreme stress — the fear of the unknown was the worst. That first week, when we were down in Iowa City, we were away from our family and there isn’t any support except for a telephone call.”
“Every day has gotten better since,” Nate said.
Sunday, James was running after balloons, smiling, playing with Evan and Alaina and acting like a normal 14-month-old. His treatment for LCH consists of a year of regular chemotherapy.
“Every three weeks now we go down to Iowa City and he will have chemotherapy via port and we will bring home chemo shots that we will administer at home for five straight days,” Ashley said. “We give him a shot at night.”
The chemotherapy treatments progressively shrank James’ tumor. However, the treatments are costly, as are the trips to Iowa City.
Kevin Neumann said he decided to host Sunday’s benefit for the family. Neumann said 400 tickets were sold for the benefit, and other people called about attending or otherwise donating to the family.
Neumann has known Nate for years — he and Nate’s mother are second cousins — and said the benefit was a way to help.
“They’re a young couple just starting out,” Neumann said. “After the year we’ve all had, this was a way to give back.”