Hope all is well. I'm sure you're busy right now, taking care of all the last-minute gift wishes. I've been reading up on the favorite gifts this year for 10-year-old boys, and I'm guessing you are getting requests for video games, laser guns, drones, mini bikes, baseball gloves and basketballs. Typical stuff, you know.
So I'll get right to the point.
I recently learned about Brody Hamilton, who lives near Big Neck in rural Adams County. He sounds like a typical 10-year-old boy. He plays baseball in the spring and basketball in the winter. He rides his four-wheeler at home, he hates to do his homework, he plays Fortnite too much and he loves the Golden State Warriors.
"He's sensitive and caring, and he cares about other people more than he does himself," says his mother, Mandy Hamilton. "He's always smiling."
I can only imagine what kind of player Brody is -- rough and tumble, getting his uniform dirty and his knees skinned. His mother is a Clampitt, and I played many baseball games against his uncles, Les and Randy, years ago. (In fact, Santa, my Christmas wish is for Randy to stop telling that story about the two home runs I gave up against his team during an American Legion game in the summer of 1983.)
The last two months have been pretty rough for Brody, Mandy, his younger sister, Kaitlyn, and his dad, Brian.
At the end of October, Brody started vomiting quite often. He would get dizzy, and his head would hurt. At first, Brody was looked at by a chiropractor, but the symptoms continued to come and go.
"We thought it was a viral thing," Mandy said. "He had an ear infection and a sinus infection, so we thought he had an inner ear problem."
Brody had the same issues the day before Thanksgiving. Lots of vomiting and dizziness. He went to the emergency room at Blessing Hospital, and his labs looked good. Brody was sent home, and his parents were told to follow up with their doctor in a week.
He missed a few days of school because of a 24-hour no-vomiting rule, but he didn't miss a basketball game or practice.
Finally, he had a CT scan on Dec. 3.
"The doctors called that night," Mandy said. "They didn't use the word ‘tumor.' They called it a ‘lesion.' They just don't come out and say it.
"I basically felt all the strength in my legs give out. Just hearing those words was very hard."
Brody was diagnosed with an anaplastic ependymoma, a cancerous tumor that forms when cells in the central nervous system (including the brain and spinal cord) begin to multiply rapidly. Surgery was performed on Dec. 5 at St. Louis Children's Hospital to remove the mass.
"The doctors feel comfortable they got it completely removed," Mandy said. "Now we have to go through radiation to remove the cells."
Brody now is dealing with posterior fossa syndrome, which has caused him to lose the functions of the muscles in his body and makes speech difficult. He has a feeding tube, and he's starting to move his arms and legs. His speech will be the last to come.
"It's frustrating," Mandy said. "He can't communicate what he needs or what hurts. He's a long way from the end."
Mandy is on leave from her job in Quincy with Merek, Inc., and now is with Brody every day. He undergoes three hours of speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy twice a day. There's no telling for how long.
"For however long he needs," Mandy said. "They don't want to say how long the time frame is, but I'm bracing for at least the plural version of the word ‘month.'"
Mandy says Brody understands what is going on around him.
"When family comes to visit, we'll sit there and talk, and if he hears something funny, he'll laugh," Mandy said. "He's still in there. He still has his sense of humor, but it's been tough."
The Central boys basketball team and the Central-Southeastern girls basketball team both had fundraisers this month to raise money for the Hamilton family. Fans could bid on players to come do four hours of work for them. T-shirts with the phrase "#BrodyStrong" on them were sold. Raffles, silent auctions and pledge sheets for each point scored also raised money.
"We're just overwhelmed over how the community has supported us," Mandy said. "They're just there, people we don't even know, people who know our families. They want to know what they can do, sending us cards and gifts and prayers."
Santa, that's where you can come in.
Brody missed Halloween because he was sick. He was in the emergency room on Thanksgiving, and he's going to be in the hospital for Christmas. The family could use a pick-me-up.
Since Brody is a big Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant fan, a pair of Curry's latest line of shoes or a Durant jersey with the number 35 (the same number he wears for his basketball team) ought to bring a smile to his face. Pick out something nice for mom and dad to help them with the stress of watching their son lay in a hospital bed, and a prayer or two for the staff at Children's Hospital would be appreciated as they work with Brody to get him back home and back on the field or in the gym.
Where a 10-year-old boy ought to be.
Thanks for the time, Santa. And God bless you, Brody.