Los Angeles

Family of Boy Battling Cancer Seeking Funds for Treatment

The family needs help transporting their son, Reef, to Cincinnati for treatment.

A South African family that journeyed to Los Angeles three years ago to get their son, Reef, the life-saving medical treatment that he needed has been granted two more years in the country to keep the little boy with his doctors.

Just months ago, the family was facing deportation due to expired visas. An immigration attorney took their case pro bono and helped the father obtain authorization to work in the U.S. while his son continued treatments.

"We are so happy that it came through. We feel so blessed," Reef’s mother, Lydia Carneson told NBC4. 

Reef was born in Johannesburg and beat an aggressive form of leukemia when he was just 5 months old. But the now-6-year-old has continued to battle cancer.

Since NBC4’s first story on Reef aired on Jan. 18, the family was invited to appear on the TV show "The Doctors" to raise awareness about childhood cancer. Since then, the family has received an outpouring of support from celebrities on social media and thousands of dollars in donations.

But, unfortunately, Reef's condition recently took a turn for the worse and the family once again needs help.

At the end of 2014, the family learned Reef had developed cancer on his scalp and face. And during the past few weeks, Reef has been hospitalized with infections several times.


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His deteriorating condition has baffled his LA doctors, so they have recommended the family travel to Cincinnati Children's Hospital to see a team of specialists — but, getting him there with a severely compromised immune system isn't easy or cheap.

"If there is one sick person on that plane, Reef will pick up whatever they've got. And particularly with the measles scare at this moment in time, measles is one of the diseases that could actually kill Reef," said Reef's father, Ryan Carneson.

If the family can't find a donor with a private plane, they will have to drive across the country — shielding Reef's head from the sun throughout the journey. Reef's parents are considering renting an RV for the trip.

On the bright side, Reef is excited for Cincinnati because he'll see snow for the first time.

His mother says even though little Reef wakes up in pain each day he continues to laugh and dance, showing them how to find the silver lining in every dark cloud.

Reef has to be in Cincinnati by Monday, Feb. 16. If you'd like to donate to Reef's family to help fund the trip to Cincinnati, click here.

To learn more about Reef's battle, visit the Save Baby Reef Facebook page here.

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