St. Clair Shores— Leaning against the coffee table in his family's living room, 8-year-old Kaden Strek has a joke up his sleeve.
Kaden, who has cerebral palsy and is legally blind, knocks on the table with a curled hand.
"Knock, knock," says his mom, Eddie. "Who's there?"
"Boo," says Kaden, eyes downcast, head bowed to his chest, his voice garbled.
"Boo hoo," responds Eddie, sending Kaden into a fit of giggles.
He was born three months early to an addict mom, and Kaden's short life has been anything but lighthearted. Doctors gave him just days to live and predicted he would be a "vegetable" if he survived.
Kaden had other plans. Today, he walks with a walker, uses a variety of words and some sign language to communicate, and is obsessed with the children's music group the Wiggles.
"It's his M.O. He proves people wrong," said dad Tom, who, with Eddie, has fostered Kaden since birth, adopting him at 2.
Now, Tom and Eddie, short for Elisabeth, are hoping Kaden will defy the odds again — this time with the help of controversial stem cell transplants for which they'll travel more than 6,000 miles to China later this month. The goal: to improve Kaden's vision, balance and speech.
Kaden will receive four transplants using umbilical cord stem cells at China's Beike Biotechnology, a company that treats more than 200 international patients every month. Kaden also will get six weeks of intense physical and occupational therapy during their stay.
"This has the possibility to change his life," said Eddie Strek, a former paralegal and executive assistant. "I have to try because that possibility exists. I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't try."