Grayson was a vibrant, active 4-year-old boy whose life was destined for a wonderful future. Then, in October 2014, his life completely changed. He was life-flighted to a Children’s hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was diagnosed with diffuse astrocytoma, a malignant tumor of the brain.

Under the care of a pediatric oncologist at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital teamed with Monument Cancer Care Institute in Rapid City, South Dakota, Grayson underwent a round of chemotherapy followed by radiation treatments to destroy the brain tumor. The treatments seemed to stop the tumor from growing and Grayson was mostly symptom-free for a number of years.

And then his MRI scans started to show tumor growth again. Grayson underwent laser ablation surgery in November 2019 to try to kill the active tumor cells and that seemed to work for about a year. But then, however, his scans started showing more tumor growth in October 2020. Dr. Jean Mulcahy-Levy at Children’s Hospital Colorado and her team decided another round of radiation treatments was needed to inhibit the growing tumor. Grayson again had radiation treatments from Monument Health’s Cancer Treatment Center. He also did 12 weeks of Avastin Infusions over Summer 2021.

Although the radiation treatment was felt to significantly reduce Grayson’s tumor, his health continued to decline causing double vision, weakness on his right side, and extreme fatigue (Grayson was sleeping up to 8 hours a day, plus sleeping all night. Dr. Mulcahy-Levy and her team felt much of his declining neurological health might be due to inadvertent brain injury—radionecrosis—that radiation treatments can cause in the fight to cure cancer. He was referred to the Hyperbaric Medicine Treatment Center at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital for evaluation.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a unique form of treatment that supplies high concentrations of oxygen to areas of injured tissue in the body and can ultimately lead to healing when other treatments have failed. Dr. Patrick Tibbles is the Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medicine Services at Monument Health, under the leadership of Michael Latour, MBA, PT, System Director of Musculoskeletal Care, Monument Health Orthopedic and Specialty Hospital. He evaluated Grayson and felt that he was a candidate for this life-saving intervention. Before starting Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Grayson grew increasingly worse. On October 26th Grayson was in critical condition. Grayson was put on a ventilator after having a seizure and was then life-flighted. Grayson was in the hospital for 26 days. Over the course of two months, Grayson had 5 brain surgeries, one of which was to place a shunt to help with hydrocephalus.

Once Grayson and his parents returned to Spearfish, South Dakota, Grayson started Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy right before Thanksgiving of 2021. Over the course of several months, Grayson was placed 5 days a week in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber and administered high concentrations of oxygen under pressure for several hours to try and heal the radiation-injured brain tissue. Towards the end of his treatment regimen, Grayson was able to give high-fives and the best hugs to his doctors, staff, and friends and play ping-pong with his family, walk without difficulty, and have more energy throughout the day. His pediatric oncology team at Children’s Hospital Colorado confirmed his dramatic clinical improvement following the hyperbaric treatment course.

Grayson is once again beginning to experience his adolescence in the typical young boy fashion and is now back to school full time, and engaging in physical therapy and occupational therapy 4 times a week. His energy levels have also improved dramatically. Grayson will continue to have follow-up CT scans, MRIs, and doctor appointments at Children’s Colorado.

Grayson is back to thriving and enjoying everyday living. He will be 12 in May 2022. He continues to challenge everyone he knows to save pop tabs for Ronald McDonald Houses. His current pop tab challenge goal is raising 2,000 pounds, which is well over 3 million aluminum pull tabs.

Since October 2014 Grayson has done over 50 MRIs, without any sedation. He has played the “Freeze game” for all radiation treatments and MRIs. Grayson amazes everyone, including his parents and 4 siblings, with his easygoing, fun-loving, go-get-em attitude. All the while he encourages everyone he meets to ‘Make today great’ and don’t just wait around to have a great day. Grayson continues to pick joy in the middle of life’s storms and challenge others to do the same.