The smile on wish kid Daniel’s face says it all! A big smooch from his friend Wilbur the sea lion is exactly what the doctor ordered to bring Daniel’s laughter back after his brave battle against leukemia.
Daniel’s battle began on Christmas Eve, 2016. He began having intense abdominal pains and his parents rushed him to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with a condition called intussusception. Daniel was immediately taken into surgery to have part of his intestine removed. And while the holidays are supposed to full of peace, laughter, and joy, for Daniel and his family, it was anything but…the trip to the emergency room revealed something else. Daniel had Burkitt’s lymphoma.
Burkitt’s lymphoma is extremely aggressive and requires equally aggressive treatment to cure it. Daniel was hospitalized for a week for chemotherapy treatments which included IV chemo as well as intrathecal chemotherapy – a type of chemo given while under anesthesia. Intrathecal chemotherapy delivers the medicine directly to the brain and spinal cord to kill any cancer cells that might have spread to those areas. Daniel had a hard time recovering from the anesthesia and developed a fear of the “sleeping medicine.” He had weekly dressing changes of his central line, a catheter left in his body for the IV chemotherapy to be delivered through. He became septic twice, had two transfusions, and had to begin IV nutrition when he stopped eating. While Daniel was too young to truly understand what was going on, he was afraid of the pain he endured from his condition as well as from the multiple medical procedures he endured.
A year prior to Daniel’s diagnosis, the family had taken a vacation to the Florida Keys. At a visit to the Theater of the Seas, Daniel met a seal lion named Wilbur. Wilbur made a huge impression on Daniel and for the whole year following his meeting, he kept telling his mother, “I miss Wilbur.” So, when it came time for Daniel to choose a wish, there was no hesitation whatsoever. Daniel was going to visit his friend Wilbur! Knowing he was going to be able to see his favorite sea lion again, his focus immediate turned to his wish. His mother Cathy said when Daniel was in pain or scared, she would talk to him about their upcoming trip to see Wilbur. She said, “his wish was a way of giving him something positive to focus on, something besides his current condition.”
It soon came time for Daniel to be reunited with Wilbur. Upon arriving in Florida and heading straight to the Theater of the Sea, Daniel immediately ran to the sea lion den where he knew Wilbur would be waiting. “Daniel’s face was so bright and excited,” Cathy recalls. Wilbur painted a picture for Daniel and gave him kisses which “smelled like fish,” Daniel said. There was no doubt Wilbur missed Daniel as much as Daniel missed him.
Daniel is now 6 years old and has successfully battled Burkitt’s lymphoma. While he may not have the stamina to engage in sports or other high pace activities, he is able to live his life to the fullest. Cathy recalls how “the excitement leading up to Daniel’s wish trip gave him the strength he needed to keep fighting his disease and gave us hope that we would see Daniel smiling and laughing again one day soon.”