In September, Kai Quinonez was a typical eight-year-old at Hopkinson Elementary School.
Then the deep, purple bruises began to appear. One morning he awoke in a pool of his own blood, and, in under a month, he was blood transfusion-dependent and diagnosed with a rare disease that strikes one in a million people.
It was a short short period of time that upended life for the Quinonez family. Today the Quinonez’s are braced for a long battle to save their child.
Kai has Aplastic Anemia, a blood disease that affects one in a million people, mostly children. With blood transfusions, months of chemotherapy treatment and possibly a bone marrow transplant, Kai is a little boy fighting for his life.
But there are a lot of people by his side.
“Our church, Good Shepherd on Los Alamitos Boulevard, has been incredible,” said Kai’s father Gus Quinonez. “Everybody has been so suportive.”
Quinonez is a realtor at Keller Williams Realty in Los Alamitos, and his co-workers are raffling an $800 iPad to help raise money for Kai’s treatment.
Kai needs blood transfusions to survive. He takes ten different medicines a day, and he is undergoing chemotherapy.
“He is in a severe stage of the disease, and he had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance,” said Dennis Berry, the public relations officer for Keller Williams Realty in Los Alamitos. “Everyone wants to do what they can to help.”
Raffle tickets are $20 a piece or three for $50, said Beryy. Anyone wishing to donate or buy a raffle ticket can do so at
With medical bills mounting, Quinonez said the family is grateful for the support and comforted to know that so many people are willing to help in case Kai needs a bone marrow transfusion.
The family had hopes that Kai’s older brother, Klaus, 10, would be a match as a bone marrow donor. He wasn’t, and, because the risks are very high when using an outside donor, doctors have chosen to try chemotherapy treatments before a bone-marrow transplant.
It has been less than five full months since Kai last seemed healthy, but it feels like a long time ago, said Quinonez.
It was he who first noticed that something was wrong.
“I noticed some bright, purple bruises on his lower back,” said Quinonez. “I asked him if something had happened to him at school, but he didn’t know how he got the bruises. We knew right then that something was wrong.”
Kai was hopsitalized and uderwent several tests.
“The doctors at UCLA told us, ‘This is a serious diagnosis – more serious than any kind of luekemia,” said Quinonez. “As a parent you never want to hear anything like that.”
But that was just the beginning. The disease progressed quickly, and Kai became dependent on blood transfusions by the end of October.
It hasn’t been easy trying to explain this complicated disease to an eight-year-old.
“He woke up one morning, and his pillow was just soaked in blood. When that happened, he was pretty scared, and we just had to try to explain to him what was going on with his body,” Quinonez. “Then two weeks ago we almost lost him.”
Through it all Kai has tried to stay positive.
Kai has sandy blond hair, and he is crazy about airplanes. He loves airplane museums and even wrote a book about World War I airplanes and the Red Baron. He loves to boogie board and cook and will try any new food, said his father.
The disease and the treatment take a toll on the child, but he still has a long battle ahead of him. He will undergo two six-month treatments of chemotherapy, and the family is braced for a long year.
“We try to keep each other together,” Quinonez said.
But it’s not easy.
Quinonez said his wife has trouble eating and sleeping.
“It’s so consuming,” he said. “People keep asking me, ‘Why don’t you take time off work?’ But I have to keep doing what I do,” added Quinonez. “This is a marthon, not a sprint.”