Inspired To Help Other Families Awaiting Transplant
Some kids can’t wait for their birthday to see all the presents they are going to receive.
Then, there’s Ethan Webber.
The 11-year-old from Midlothian, whose birthday is Dec. 6, spends each birthday working with his mother, Missy, gathering and gifting presents for boys and girls in the transplant unit at Cook Children’s Medical Center. This year marks the 10th anniversary since the start of their annual project.
Ethan was born with an extremely rare blood disorder, Reticular Dysgenesis. He had no white blood cells.
“Luckily for us, a doctor at Cook Children’s had seen a case similar to this while he was doing his residency at Johns Hopkins, so he suggested for us to go through a bone marrow transplant in order to save Ethan,” Missy recalled. “This process took 81 days, starting with the day Ethan was born to being taken to the NICU unit at Cook, and finally to the bone marrow transplant.”
The race was on to save Ethan’s life, starting with his two brothers. Luckily, they were both perfect matches to donate, with the oldest, Alex, making the donation.
“Which is another extremely rare thing, because most siblings are not matches,” Missy said. “Our oldest at the time was at the perfect age and became Ethan’s donor.”
While a child is going through transplant, a parent has to be present 24 hours a day. His dad, Anton, spent every night with Ethan so Missy could go home to the boys, and she would spend the days at the hospital. During this time, inspiration showed up in a satisfying fashion.
“We actually received a basket full of food and treats while we were in transplant. That basically saved my husband,” she said with a smile. “Texas received one of their crazy snow/ice storms that year and he couldn’t get out and get anything to eat, but thankfully he had that basket of goodies.
“Since Ethan was born in December and we were there for 81 days, we were there at Christmas time, this is why we do baskets at this time of year.”
A Tradition That Makes A Difference
Missy said they usually start collecting money around mid-November by letting friends and family know on Facebook or word of mouth that it’s time for the annual gift basket project. This year, Ethan raised over $1,000 dollars to provide baskets for seven families.
“I like doing this with my family every year. It is one of my favorite traditions we do at Christmas,” Ethan said.
The baskets include food items that the parents can eat while they are in the transplant unit. For example, this year they included peanut butter, crackers, beef jerky, chips, Nutella, tuna, fruit, trail mix, nuts, granola bars, and comforting items such as sweet treats, blankets, face wipes and chapstick.
And this year they raised enough money to give everyone a Kindle Fire, along with gift cards to Starbucks and the restaurants in the hospital.
“It is often difficult to leave their children to get food, so having snacks that are healthy, or treats to help them when things get rough is important. This is the most difficult and painful transplant anyone can go through, and for most of these families this is their child’s last chance to get better,” Missy said.
They deliver the baskets the week before Christmas at Cook Children’s.
Stronger As A Family
Missy said the project is important to her family to help remind them every year how blessed they are to have made it through this experience and to have come out stronger as a family.
“When you are going through this journey you sometimes feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and when others showed such generosity for us I made a promise that we would continue this going forward, hopefully to give a little hope,” she said. “We have now done this for 10 years and my children look forward to this every year. They help with the shopping, picking out items and putting the baskets together.. We make cards etc…”
Ethan is a living reminder that Missy and her family were fortunate, unlike some other families. He does, however, still have to deal with the effects of the chemotherapy he received as an infant of 27 days. But all in all, things like teeth issues, fatty liver, etc., all of these are manageable and to see him you would never know what he went through 11 years ago, Missy said.
As for the future, Missy said the main thing is that Ethan has one.
“We are just blessed he is a happy boy who was given a chance to live against all the crazy odds that he faced since Day 1,” she said.
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