Two years ago, Byron Falgout heard the news no parent wants to hear. His 2-year-old son had cancer, more specifically acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which attacks the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells. The doctors believed the prognosis would be good with proper treatment.
Konnor underwent chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, which has been successful. He is now in remission, or what’s considered the maintenance phase. He still takes chemotherapy drugs daily with intravenous treatments every four weeks.
“Half of his life has been spent now with leukemia,” Byron said.
But his cancer diagnosis didn’t crush his spirit. Konnor loves to stay active playing baseball and riding bikes along the levee near his home. His dad claims his son never seems to run out of energy.
Realizing his son’s love of bike riding, Byron saw a way to make Konnor’s birthday extra special. A day before Konnor turned 5 years old, Byron brought him to the Bike Safety Rodeo at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, where he was given his very own bike and helmet.
“Giving children the ability to have a bicycle that they can ride in the community and ride to visit their friends is very important – it helps them maintain healthy living from a young age,” said Joe Ochipinti, CEO, UnitedHealthcare-Gulf States.
Konnor was one of 50 kids from Children’s Hospital New Orleans (CHNO) and the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Louisiana who received the new wheels and safety gear. The two organizations partnered with UnitedHealthcare and the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) to host the event.
“One of the parents told me that the bike her child received was the first bike the child rode,” said Amanda Jackson, M.D., primary care medical director at CHNO.
The event was more than just a bike giveaway. After receiving their bikes, the kids participated in four stations: helmet fitting and helmet safety, helmet decorating, healthy stretches and exercises and nutrition education.
“We taught the kids the ABCs – air, brakes and chain,” said Det. Robert Monlyn, the bike instructor for the NOPD “They learned the importance of looking both ways prior to starting, how to look over their shoulder when making turns, and some kids were able to take part in a slow speed drill.”
As the day came to an end, the kids had a newfound independence.
“They’re all lighting up today, and everybody’s excited about their bicycles,” said Carlos Daniels, vice president of operations for Boys & Girls Club.
For Byron, the day brought back great memories of getting his first bike, and he was happy his son got to experience the same thing. Konnor will be able to ride his new bike on the Mississippi River levee and around his neighborhood with friends for years to come.
“He’s got a lot of energy, so it’s great to see him riding around,” Byron said.