He and his family needed a hero; they ended up finding a bunch of them.
Warren Nunn had to wage a tough war against Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) last year.
He had been feeling very tired, and went to see his doctor. At that visit, he was given a blood transfusion and scheduled for an emergency biopsy. Two weeks later, the results came back — it was leukemia.
“It happened that fast. Everything in our life was turned upside down,” he said.
But more scary than the possibility of dying to Warren and his wife, Janet, was the thought that they would have no money to live on as a family, as he was unable to keep working at his business, Humboldt Yard Care.
Then Warren found out that he would have to leave the country for treatment.
With bills piling up, and no way to pay for a trip to the U.S., he and his family needed help.
They turned to HERO, the Humboldt Emergency Relief Organization.
Run by members of the local emergency services — fire, ambulance and RCMP — HERO is dedicated to helping those who have to travel to seek medical treatment with costs associated with doing so.
HERO usually helps between three and four families in the Humboldt region every year.
As an organization, they fundraise through bartending, barbecues, and gathering donations.
“We get a lot of support from the community,” noted Dave Mortensen, a longtime member of HERO and the current president.
It was in early 2011 that Warren and Janet Nunn applied to HERO for assistance.
“We were looking for financial help because at that time, I had found out that I would have to go to Seattle for treatment,” Warren explained in an interview with the Journal.
Nunn needed a bone marrow transplant, and Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon was only performing two per month.
His doctor did not want him to wait.
For that reason, and because a reaction to chemotherapy had sent Nunn into the Intensive Care Unit a month before, labelling him a high-risk patient, his doctor wanted to send him to Seattle for treatment and transplant.
Warren and Janet, who was required to be with him as a caregiver, were expecting to be in Seattle for about four months — they ended up having to stay six — and knew that to be able to survive, they’d need financial help.
“We had no income from the fall of 2010, because both of us could not work,” Nunn explained.
“We never thought of HERO,” Nunn admitted when they were trying to come up with a plan.
Then Janet’s brother-in-law phoned around Humboldt and found out about HERO.
“We were told to call HERO and we did. That’s how we got introduced,” Nunn said.
They applied to the organization and were granted help to pay for their flights to Seattle, their hotels, fuel for their car, a rental car for a time, and other expenses.
The needs of Warren and his family were a perfect fit for what HERO does, said Mortensen.
“He’s someone... who is well-established in the community, and there was definitely a need,” Mortensen told the Journal. Also, the Nunns had to travel a substantial distance, not just out of province, but out of the country.
“It just fit,” he said. “It was one of the best fits for all our criteria... A substantial amount of money was needed and it was nice to be able to give it,” he said. “It’s basically what HERO was established for. This was a perfect fit.”
In total, the Nunns were granted $5,256 from HERO while Warren was in Seattle, undergoing two more chemotherapy treatments and finally getting a bone marrow transplant after an international donor was found.
Originally, Nunn said, his sister travelled with them to Seattle, as she was a perfect bone marrow match for him. However, she ended up unable to donate, as her white blood cell counts were too low.
That’s why their trip took two extra months, Nunn said. A donor had to be found.
While he was waiting, Nunn was prepared for the transplant with chemotherapy treatments, and constant monitoring, as well as nutritional consultations.
Once the donor was found and the transplant done, Nunn had to stay near the clinic for 100 days, to ensure that the transplant had worked and everything was as it should be.
“They want to make sure donor cells are replenishing the body,” Nunn explained.
Right now, Nunn has a clean bill of health. There is no leukemia left in his body.
“It really turned out well,” he said of his treatment and his care.
His medical costs were all covered by federal and provincial governments, he noted, for which he was grateful.
“I came from an excellent health care system,” he said, adding that he heard some horror stories while he was in the States about people falling behind in their treatments because they could not pay for it.
Nunn was also able to have his family with him while he was being treated. His wife, Janet, was with him for it all, and his son, Fraser, and daughter, Lyndell, were able to join them soon after they arrived in Seattle.
But Nunn says he wouldn’t have been able to go for treatment at all, if it weren’t for two agencies — HERO and Telemiracle.
“There was no way I could go otherwise,” he said. “I would have just waited for RUH... and made a lot of trips to the city.”
Nunn is still dealing with an underlying medical condition that caused his leukemia, called Myelodysplastic syndrome, which means his bone marrow is damaged.
And he’s still dealing with the after-effects of his bone marrow transplant, which includes avoiding dirt, grass, mold and the like — pretty much everything involved with landscaping.
But with his health returned, the Nunns have their business back up and running again, with Warren in an administrative role.
Their need for HERO has passed. But he is grateful the organization was there when they needed it most.