BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 7-year-old Harrison Hazlett was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in his right femur at just five-years-old. He rang the bell at Roswell seven months later. But one year after celebrating, he found out the cancer relapsed to his lungs.
"We had a giant parade, and then his year scan came and we found out that it relapsed to his lungs," Dayna Hazlett, Harrison's mom, said.
Harrison has had several surgeries and has tried two types of oral chemotherapy, but nothing has worked.
"He does whatever. He doesn't complain," Alex Hazlett, Harrison's dad said.
"We try our absolute best to make every part of this fun for him," Dayna said.
Harrison's doctors have recommended an experimental treatment. He was supposed to start on Monday, but insurance denied coverage. His family filed an emergency appeal, but insurance denied that too.
"When he's relapsed so many times already," Alex said.
"He's been through hell. I lost it. Yesterday, I was crying all day long. I couldn't talk to anybody. It just feels like a dagger going through your heart," Dayna said.
That was on March 15th. When we approached Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield originally with that information, they said in a statement, "In general, treatments that have not advanced past clinical trials for safety and have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration are considered experimental and are not covered."
Highmark said the family can have the request reviewed by a different pharmacist, doctor and an independent review entity. They will consider any additional information when the decision is re-reviewed.
"Basically, we've tried the things that are FDA approved. Clearly it hasn't worked, or we wouldn't have put in for this," Alex said.
UPDATE (03/25/22): The family confirms to 7 News that 7 year old Harrison's treatment has now been approved by Highmark, and he will undergo the experimental treatment within the next week.
A new statement from the insurance company says it cannot comment directly on the individual situations of a child's health due to privacy laws - but addresses the reasons why policy denials can change:
"Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York’s coverage decisions are reviewed thoroughly and promptly by a team of licensed pharmacists and doctors. In general, treatments that have not advanced past clinical trials for safety and have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration are considered experimental and are not covered. However, we recognize there may be unique and personal circumstances where other treatment options have been ineffective and/or have resulted in significant side effects. In these instances, our clinicians work collaboratively with our member’s physician to obtain this information and may determine that coverage for the requested treatment may result in the best outcome. We understand that these discussions occur at a critical time for our members and their families. Our goal is always to resolve these situations quickly with the focus on our members’ health and safety."
The community has also set up a GoFundMe to cover the cost of Harrison's treatments.
"We want to thank the media and community for sharing our son's story and spurring change. We hope this is a new exciting chapter," said Alex.
So far, it has raised over $50,000.
"It's so nice to have everyone behind us, ensuring that this is going to get taken care of. If insurance absolutely won't do it, then we don't have to worry. This really helps us not have to worry," Dayna said.
"We can just focus on him," Alex said.
Harrison's family said he is known for being sassy, a comedian, and quite the prankster. Harrison said he wants to be a doctor, paleontologist, vet, and a YouTuber when he grows up.