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Branden’s Dream – February 29, 2012

by: Jenna Thistle

Labour Day weekend is an exciting time. It marks the end of summer and the beginning of a brand new school year. For Branden Matthews, an energetic 5-year-old, it meant an exceptionally exciting time, as he was about to start kindergarten. Unfortunately, the weekend turned out to be anything but exciting as Branden came down with a persistent fever. His worried mother, Cathy, took him to the Janeway on Sunday when his temperature reached an alarming 41°C. After having blood work done, the doctors confirmed his white blood cells, platelets, and haemoglobin were low, but the results were found to be inconclusive. Branden’s father Don had recently lost his step-father to cancer, so he and Cathy were well aware what low blood counts could indicate, but they hoped for the best.

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Branden was admitted to the hospital and given further testing to rule out illnesses like Cat Scratch Fever and Mono. On Monday, he was sent to have his spinal fluid tested and on Tuesday afternoon, September 15th, 2009, Dr. Bowse, Dr. Goodyear, and Dr. Hand took Branden’s parents aside and confirmed their worst nightmare. Their son had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, ALL. Cathy and Don were in disbelief to hear their suspicions confirmed, but they were thankful to have gone straight to the hospital instead of passing the fever off as something viral. Although the situation was devastating, the doctors at the Janeway called it textbook timing. Branden’s cancer had only been growing for a month and was contained in his bone marrow. They had discovered it at the best possible time. The next step for his parents was to decide who would become primary caregiver. Cathy chose to leave her job and stay by her son’s side day in and day out while Don kept working to support their family.

Two days after being diagnosed, a scared and lethargic Branden began his road to recovery. He did treatments for two weeks straight and spent nearly a month in the hospital. The family was able to go back home, but Branden often was neutropenic, which meant that he was unable to fight off any illnesses. They had to avoid public places and had to be within 15 minutes of the hospital in case anything went wrong. Branden was unable to attend kindergarten, but luckily he could attend an occasional class in the hospital. This was great because it allowed him and other kids to mingle in a safe learning environment mimicking the experience he was missing out on from kindergarten.

The hardest part was being in isolation. Branden and his parents were forced to stay put in a hospital room. For any young child, requiring them to stay in one place can be difficult, but this escalates if that child is sick and unable to get up and play. Branden needed something to do. He was after all, only very young and something to keep him occupied would have come in handy.

As fate would have it, Branden’s father, Don, ran into the mother of another child in the hospital. She spoke to Don about an excellent local organization known as the Short Circuit Dream Fund (SCDF). She explained that the charity aimed to make critically ill children’s dreams come true. They simply had to fill out an application to get the ball rolling, and so they did.

On February 29th, 2012, Branden’s dream did come true. The presentation marked the launch of the Drive-A-Dream fundraiser, which was an event that brought people into Hickman Motors over a month to test drive certain cars. Each would mean a donation of $20 to the Short Circuit Dream Fund. Sponsored by Hickman Automotive Group, MUN, OZFM and TC Media, the event began with the presentation of Branden’s dream. William Short, the founder of SCDF, presented an energetic and excited Branden with some presents. He received an iPad to keep him occupied in the hospital, as well as a set of Beats headphones to help him tune into his movies and games, an iCade to play games on his iPad, as well as some iTunes cards. Branden’s energy and excitement as well as his sister and parents’ warm smiles were a rewarding sign of gratitude for William and the other committee members. Branden and his family were thankful for such a kind gesture from the SCDF team to help them through this tough time. Bert Hickman, Hickman Automotive Group CEO, was in attendance for the dream presentation and said the experience was heart-warming, “What you have done for these kids is truly amazing! Keep it up.”