Vaught’s note: Kelly Melton is a 7-year-old youngster from Science Hill, an a Kentucky fan, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Vaughtsviews.com follower Ariel Calahan says he calls her”my bestie” and has been a family friend since Kelly was born and says “I consider him my little brother I never had.” She shares his story today and how so many UK athletes have taken time to be part of his life and what that has meant to him.
By ARIEL CALAHAN
I was there the day Kelly was diagnosed with Leukemia. Waiting with the family to find out what was going to happen next. We waited over four hours to be transported to UK Children’s Hospital in Lexington. That is an hour and a half away from where we live. Kelly had no clue what was going on at this point. All he knew was he was being taken to another hospital and as far as he knew he just had a bad ear ache, which is why he went to the doctor in the first place. They loaded him in the ambulance around 11 p.m.. We all went to tell him by and the words outta his mouth were, “I got Skittles in my socks!” His smile never left his face!
Once he got to UK Children’s Hospital. they started chemo immediately. He wasn’t allowed visitors at first because they were worried he would catch something which would make it harder for the chemo to take effect. He was in the hospital for 48 long days. Within those 48 days he really only saw his mom. His dad was there at the start, but he had to get back to work. His two brothers and sister hardly saw him. Maybe a couple times they got to go up and see him. I personally was there as much as possible! I did everything to make sure he never lost his smile, and those who know Kelly knows he always had a smile on his face!
Sometimes it would just be me who went up and sat in the bed playing Legos or a Wii game with Kelly. Other times I would take my friend up with me and we would both play games and just make him happy doing whatever he wanted! He didn’t really get out of bed much the first 48 days. He was tired and had no energy to do anything. One day his parents asked me if I would start a page for him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Kickinit4Kelly) and Twitter (@Kickinit4Kelly) so family and friends could know what was going on because they couldn’t call everyone and let them all know. To this day Kelly has 1,488 likes on Facebook and 3,243 followers on Twitter. People posting on his wall or tweeting him made for a great day when I would go up and let him see them. Of course, we read them to him because he is only in first grade and he is learning to read these bigger words in the hospital and at home right now!
Towards the end of the 48-day stay I sent a DM (direct message) on twitter to Martavius Neloms (former UK safety/CB) asking if he could come visit Kelly. He came back saying he would love to visit Kelly and asked if he could bring a few others with him. Christian Coleman (UK DT) had asked if he could come visit Kelly and of course we said yes. When the day came, Christian had brought Kelly a UK sock monkey and signed it for him. Mr. Socky hung on Kelly’s chemo bag.
Martavius, also known as Tay to Kelly, came and brought along Jonathan George (UK RB), Ashely Lowery (UK Safety), and Marcus Caffey (former UK CB). So there was five UK football players, Kelly, Kelly’s parents, my father and myself squished in a tiny hospital room, but we made it work and Kelly loved them the moment they walked in! Those boys were nothing but kind to Kelly and the rest of us. They all signed Kelly’s UK shirt he was wearing at the time! They stay for about two hours. The moment they left, Kelly said “that was awesome!”
Kelly got to go home for Thanksgiving, but got a temperature and had to go back the hospital. He was home for about three days. He was then in the hospital for 20-day stay. A lot of just little random things had happened throughout this stay, but the one that sticks out is when Martavius and Jonathan came back to spend another day with Kelly. Kelly had called me telling me that they came back to see him and I missed it! But don’t worry they still had a lot of fun!
Martavius also got Kelly a #1 UK football jersey and signed it for him for Christmas. Kelly was so excited when he gave it to him! Martavius was heading home for Christmas break after that visit and Kelly was so upset because he wouldn’t be able to see him until he got back. We went a long time waiting for Martavius to come back because he headed to training camps. But when he got back to Lexington, sure enough he came by to let Kelly know! Christian also got Kelly a Star Wars Lego set and a UK draw string back pack with his number on it for Christmas! Kelly loves Star Wars and Legos, so put those together and Christian was just right on track! Kelly takes the backpack to the hospital with all his Legos in it.
Martavius and Christian had come back to see Kelly and the others would check up on him via Twitter. Then one random day, it was late at night and normally Kelly doesn’t sleep to well, I got a message from Kelly’s mom. I wasn’t thinking of anything when she said, “Kelly is wide awake, will talk soon.” It was almost midnight when I received a text from a number which I didn’t know. But within the message was a picture of Kelly and Nerlens Noel (former UK basketball player). We thought it was amazing that he would come visit Kelly. After the visit Kelly would ask us all the time about his friend Nerlens.
We didn’t tell Kelly that he probably wouldn’t see him again. We all assumed it was a one-time thing. But boy were we wrong. About a month after the visit I got a message from the number which I didn’t know asking me how Kelly was. I told them and they came back with, “Can we visit him today?” So Kelly had yet another visit with his friend Nerlens. Kelly loved him visiting. They would just sit around and talk about everything and anything.
Kelly is a big football fan and a big UK fan so you put those together and he is a huge UK football fan. I thought it would be great if he could go to the Spring Game with me, which I had got tickets for right when they went on sale. We asked the doctors and they cleared it saying he could go! I had told Christian about it and he said I will get back with you. I had no clue what that meant. But he had talked to Coach Stoops and they got it to where Kelly could be on the sidelines during the game. Coach Stoops also came to visit Kelly in the hospital the week before the game! He gave him a UK football, which he signed for him. We did not tell Kelly anything until the day of and we were at the stadium. Kelly and the rest of us got a tour of the locker room and much more. Kelly got to run the practice field and go into the locker room before the game. He had a smile on his face the whole day! He also got the game ball at the end. Coach Stoops and all the players and all the other coaches made sure that day was all about Kelly and super special.
After the game we were posting the pictures on Facebook and Twitter when Landon Foster (UK Kicker/Punter) saw one of him and said he would love to visit Kelly in the hospital. I told him to come on over and he brought along Max Strong (UK Kicker) and Kelly Mason (UK long snapper). I had bought Kelly a new Lego set because Landon had told me how great a Lego builder he was! So all four of them sat in the hospital room building this Lego set! They were all so wild and crazy that day, playing random games and shooting each other with the missiles on the Lego set. It was just a great day in general. They ended up staying for four hours. Landon had given Kelly his cleats from last season and signed them for him. They had told me after that they really wasn’t expecting to have as much fun as they really did and that they would definitely be back soon to continue the war they started!
Two weeks ago while Kelly was in the hospital getting his chemo, I had got a message from Nerlens’ friend asking how Kelly was doing and if they could come visit again. Of course we made sure they got to visit before Kelly came home. Kelly and Nerlens compared their scars and Kelly was in shock how big Nerlens scar was! So he won the biggest scar.
Kelly got out of the hospital that night and went over to their house where they gave him a UK basketball signed by Nerlens. Most people saw an interview which Nerlens had done. Somehow we missed it, but wonderful followers on Twitter made sure we saw it. Nerlens talked about Kelly saying he “loved him like his little brother”. This is so true. I had met up with Nerlens’ friend to give him something when he mentioned a possibility of Kelly being able to go the Derby with Nerlens. At that moment we didn’t know if anything was official so we kept it between us. The next day he called me saying Nerlens really would like Kelly to go with him. We worked it out and found a way for Kelly to be able to go. Kelly spent the day with Nerlens and a couple of his friends. All five of them treated Kelly like he was a prince. They were all sweet and caring about him. Kelly was in heaven when he was told to go wake Nerlens up! Those boys took Kelly under their wings to make sure he had a great time!
Having this all these guys caring so much about Kelly and doing anything possible to make sure he is smiling and happy means everything to me and his family. I see a difference in Kelly when the guys are around. He is free to be himself, not that he isn’t all the time, but when you’re stuck in a hospital room and only seeing the same people over and over it gets crazy! So when they come to visit you can tell his levels boosted up.
He doesn’t see them as famous people like a lot of people do. He gets asked all the time how it feels to be around them and he will say “it’s like how I’m around you”. He calls them his best friends. When he finds out any of them are coming he gets the high pitch squirmy squeal. That’s how you know he is excited!
As for the guys who do come to visit him, Martavius had once said, “I never knew my best friend would be 7 years old”. Nerlens considers Kelly his little brother. The other guys are always saying how they love visiting Kelly after class because it gives them something to look forward too! You can tell when they are in the room with Kelly that Kelly means everything to them. They do everything and anything for him. These are relationships they will have the rest their lives.
Martavius and Christian have been with Kelly pretty much from the start. When either one would find out Kelly was having a rough day while in the hospital they would find a way to come see him. I remember texting Martavius one day saying Kelly was having a rough day. He wouldn’t talk to any of us. Martavius replied with, “I’m on my way.” He walked in and Kelly’s face lit up. Christian would come over after class just to drop by and say hey. Both these guys mean the world to Kelly and the family. We want to thank them for all they have for and continue to do for Kelly!