Working at Boston Children’s Hospital, there is absolutely no shortage of inspiration in my life. When I’m having a tough day, or finding it hard to have a good attitude, seeing or speaking to one of our patients almost always snaps me out of it. Even though I do not work directly with them, I encounter and interact with patients & their families on an almost daily basis. Their strength, courage and hope make me realize just how petty & minor some of my “problems” really are.
Greg’s story is one that really touched my heart. Greg was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in 2007 at the age of 11. Before his diagnosis, Greg was his AAU basketball team’s star player. He helped them capture 3rd place in the Massachusetts State Tournament, and hit an amazing three buzzer-beaters over the course of the tourney. After Greg started to notice some symptoms, including pale skin and abnormal bruising, his parents took him to his family doctor for testing. It was there that Greg was given the tough news-he had aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia is a blood disorder that can cause serious damage to bone marrow and the stem cells within it. Greg would not be able to play basketball, at least not for the time being, and he was devastated. But Greg was not going to give up-far from it:
Like the challenges I faced during that tournament, when my team was down in the final seconds with our season on the line, I knew that all I had to do was fight harder than I had ever before. It was an adjustment, but I tried to apply a game-like mentality to overcoming my illness. I really believe that my competitive spirit and desire to get back to basketball helped drive me to beat it.
With the help of the amazing staff at Boston Children’s and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Greg started his fight. To him, it was just like another battle on the court. He considered his doctors and nurses his “coaches” and the other patients his “teammates”. With a lot of help and support from both of them, and his family, Greg was on the road to recovery. But there was one more member of Greg’s team that would be key to him getting better. The Boston Celtics:
But it wasn’t just the team of hematologists and oncologists at Dana Farber and Boston Children’s that helped me recover that year. The Celtics (my favorite sports team) gave me hope throughout my experience as well. Although they finished with the worst record in the NBA in 2007 they bounced back in 2008 and went on to win the championship against the Lakers. Their turnaround from last to first inspired me. The 2008 regular season started around the time I was admitted to Boston Children’s for a bone marrow transplant (courtesy of my older brother). I loved watching them cruise to the best record in the NBA from my bed in a small hospital room. They made me believe that I could rally and defeat aplastic anemia in the same way they won the championship, with determination and a never-quit attitude.
Towards the end of Greg’s hospital admission, he felt strong enough to bounce a basketball in the hallway of his unit. He says that he imagined he was “Rajon Rondo or some other Celtics player competing for a championship. I kept that dream close to me and embraced it every day.”
Roughly three months after Greg’s bone marrow transplant, he received what he calls “the single biggest present” of the whole experience. It was a package from Danny Ainge:
In it was authentic team apparel, warm up shirts, headbands, sweatbands, NBA socks, and a Kevin Garnett jersey signed by the man himself. I was so ecstatic and jubilant when I received that package that I felt stronger than ever before. Those very generous gifts gave me the utmost confidence that I would win my battle with aplastic anemia.
Greg is now 18 years old, and I’m thrilled to say that he is completely cured of aplastic anemia. He is back on the court, playing varsity basketball for Phillips Andover. It was wonderful for me to see how one young man’s belief in himself and his favorite team helped him overcome such a huge obstacle. You can read more of Greg’s story on the Children’s Hospital “Thriving” blog. All of the information & images used for this story are courtesy of their site.