This is the season for gratitude and giving, a time to celebrate friends, family, the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. But for a select group, it also is a time to celebrate one of the greatest gifts — the gift of life through organ donation.
Mickey was born with a unique combination of congenital heart defects and spent most of his early life at Boston Children’s. He was one day shy of 6 months old when he received his heart transplant, and his family is grateful for every day since. “Mickey has shown us what courage and resiliency look like, and his transplant has taught us the true meaning of giving. He has touched so many lives and because of him, we have met so many amazing children and families, whose hearts and hopes far surpass their diagnoses.”
Denny Schoonmaker recently addressed an audience of over 30,000 people—a pretty big accomplishment for anyone, but especially impressive for a child who has only been speaking in full sentences for twelve months.
At last Friday’s Boston Red Sox game, Denny told a packed Fenway crowd that it was time to “play ball,” a fantastic way to thank the city that has been his and his family’s second home for the better part of the past year.
A young boy with an old man’s walk
At 2 years old, Denny started hunching his shoulders when he toddled across his home in North Carolina, which his mother Mandy affectionately dubbed his “old man walk” the first time she saw it. But as the hunch became more pronounced—and became accompanied by a hardened belly—Mandy worried it could be the sign of a more serious problem, so she took Denny to the hospital.
Tests were ordered and revealed that Denny had hepatoblastoma, a form of liver cancer usually found in young children. Doctors explained to Mandy and Doug, Denny’s father, that treatment for hepatoblastoma usually involves a combination of chemotherapy to stabilize or reduce the cancer cells in the body and surgery to takeout the diseased areas of the liver (a technique know as a liver resection.) In situations where the cancer is particularly aggressive, a liver transplant may be the patient’s only chance at recovery.
Within three chemotherapy sessions, it was clear that Denny’s cancer was aggressive enough that a liver transplant was likely to be his best option. At just 2 years old, the young boy was prepped for what would be the first of many surgeries in his young life. …