Community rallying to help Nederland teenager battling brain tumor
NEDERLAND — Those who know him, describe Hunter Bartz as an athlete who loves sports. Or they say he is a good and kind-hearted kid not prone to peer pressure.
The 17-year-old Nederland High School sophomore also has a strong will.
That’s clearly on display now as he recovers from a December surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his brain.
The prognosis is troubling, according to family, due to a terminal diagnosis and life expectancy of just a few years.
Yet, there is still hope and a large community rallying in support.
- A gofundme.com account under “Hunters Road to Recovery” has been established and is already over quarter-way to its goal of raising $25,000.
- A large March 6 fundraiser with a goal of raising $75,000 is planned at Pathway Church on Nederland Avenue.
- A public group Facebook page, “Hope for Hunter,” is keeping community members up-to-date in fundraising efforts and seeking specific items in service of the overall goal.
The family is working to raise money so Hunter can receive an experimental treatment from Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski in Houston.
Family friend Carrie Hackbarth said the treatments have given certain patients years to live when they had been told they only had months left.
“We feel like, especially at Hunter’s age, he deserves that opportunity,” Hackbarth said.
Hunter turned 17 in November, but it was a month earlier that he began getting a little numbness in his face and it started to spread.
Hunter’s mother, Andrea Guidry, was concerned and took him to the emergency room, where she was told he had an ear infection and was prescribed anabolic steroids.
The numbness spread down the left side of his body, prompting another trip to the ER, where a CT exam and an EKG were performed, along with blood and urine analysis. The family was told nothing serious was wrong, Guidry said.
It got to the point that Hunter’s blood flow began dragging and he couldn’t use his left arm.
Next, he got into see a neurologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, where an MRI was ordered and a brain tumor was discovered, Guidry said.
On Dec. 22, Hunter underwent 10 hours of brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
“It’s been a little over two weeks now, and we just got the results back,” Guidry said. “It’s terminal. As of now, there is no cure. The life expectancy is a few years, and that’s pretty much where we are. Right now, he is still learning how to walk again. He has two weeks of rehab he needs to do. They need to do the radiation first, he will have six weeks of radiation. That should start in about two weeks at MD Anderson.”
Guidry said her son is handling the news like an adult, “the best as you can.”
“He is, of course, heart broke but wants to fight,” she said. “We’re going to try and raise enough money to do another treatment that insurance doesn’t cover. And pray for the best. He loves sports. He loves his church. He is just a big-hearted teenager. He’s a good kid.”
Carrie Hackbarth’s son Carter and Hunter are best friends, with each spending a significant amount of time at the other’s home.
Hackbarth said Hunter walks a very fine, straight line.
“He is such a great young kid,” she said. “He certainly doesn’t deserve this. No child does. He is just the type of kid every parent wants their child to be like. That’s the truth.”
She is organizing the fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 6 at Pathway Church, 2326 Nederland Avenue. Planning for the full affair is just getting started, but highlights include a washer board tournament, bake sale, cake walk, live band and DJ, as well as sales for links and boudin. Multiple organizations have already contacted Hackbarth, wanting to be a part of it.
“The support that has been flowing in has moved me to tears,” she said. “Our goal is to get to at least $75,000 to try and cover as much of this experimental treatment as we can.”
Hackbarth says Hunter’s emotions are all over the place right now, which is understandable.
“We know that Hunter has the fight and the will,” she said. “He is going to be an example of God’s goodness. He is going to live longer then they are giving him, and we are going to do everything we can to make that happen. I know that he has the fight in him. He is young. There are so many things that he wants to see and do.”
Hunter’s aunt, Xenia Bartz, describes him as an amazing teenager, who is very sweet-hearted and down-to-earth.
“When he smiles, his eyes light up,” Bartz said. “He has a lot of pep and a lot of go. He likes being around his family. He likes crawfish, sports and the outdoors.”
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