Trey Freeman, the Newcastle ECC first grader who captured the hearts of the community, lost a battle he had been fighting since birth.
Freeman died Sunday, Sept. 1 at the Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas, Texas, from leukemia complicated by a genetic immunodeficiency condition. He was seven years old.
At about 1:30 on the morning of Sept. 1 Freeman’s parents, Rev. Jeremy Freeman of First Baptist Church of Newcastle and his wife Emily were called to the hospital when Freeman began struggling. He passed later in the day.
“He fought a heroic battle against a rare form of leukemia and never once complained or gave up,” Jeremy Freeman said in a statement to the Pacer. “Because he embraced Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, the moment he closed his earthly eyes for the last time was also the moment he opened his eternal eyes for the first time. Even though we miss Trey terribly and grieve deeply, we have hope because we will see him again. Our family will forever be grateful to this community and our church family for walking through this journey with us.”
At Newcastle Schools, counseling services were in place and available for any student or staff member who wished to use them, superintendent Tony O’Brien said, and that the district would work with faculty and staff who wished to attend funeral services.
“We’re going to miss him,” O’Brien said. “He and his family have been a great part of our community and our school. We just want to be supportive of the family.”
Freeman was born with X-Linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome (X-SCID). A recessive trait, X-SCID is the result of a mutated gene that causes the body to produce too few T-cell and Natural Killer (NK) cell lymphocytes, both types of white blood cells.
T-Cells, which are formed in the thymus, are the workhorse of the immune system, handling most of the functions of lymphocytes, including directly attacking infected or cancerous cells, as well as regulating the immune response.
NK cells are part of the innate immune system, which is always active, and are capable of responding to infected or cancerous cells without chemical triggers that activate other cells like T-Cells. NK cells are also believed to be responsible for suppressing a mother’s immune system during pregnancy to protect the developing fetus.
In patients of X-SCID, the body reacts to the low levels of these cells by producing more B-cell lymphocytes, primarily responsible for producing the chemical markers T-cells use to recognize infection. As a result, the body is left highly susceptible to infection and disease from an early age.
Though not always successful, the best known treatment for X-SCID is a bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow produces not only red blood cells, but lymphocytes as well.
Over the course of his treatment, Freeman was subjected to two such transplants, and was scheduled for a third, which often cause pain for the donors.
Tales of Freeman’s struggle with the disorder brought forth an outpouring of support from the community. Most recently, the Freemans were presented a check for $10,091 raised by students at Newcastle High School on behalf of the Make-a-Wish foundation. In June, classmate Maddyx Snow, six, and his sister Hurley, seven, organized the “Journey for Trey” fun run, raising more than $4,700 to help the Freemans with medical expenses.
“On behalf our family, and especially our son Trey, we want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the many people who have supported our family this last year,” Jeremy Freeman said. “Even though Trey was young, he impacted countless lives all over the world. We will never know this side of heaven how many lives he touched.”
Funeral services for Freeman will be Thursday, Sept. 5 at 2 p.m. at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. Interment will follow at Newcastle Memorial Gardens. Memorials made be made to the Newcastle FBC Living the Vision Children’s Building Fund, P.O. Box 299, Newcastle, OK 73065.
“Our family will forever be grateful to this community and our church family for walking through this journey with us,” Jeremy Freeman said. “We love each of you who have encouraged us, prayed with and for us, grieved with us, and supported us in so many other ways. Trey is finally home. He is truly free.”