Who hasn’t had a sick child during the end of year holiday season? Debbie and Manny Bairos took the reports of leg and belly pain seriously because rarely did their seven-year-old son Ethan complain. The results of an emergency room visit for x-rays followed by an appointment with their pediatrician for blood tests showed abnormal cells. So they started 2011 with an appointment at Children’s Hospital and received an unexpected diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
Thanks to a quick and accurate course of action, the leukemia didn’t blast into his blood. Unfortunately, it is in his spine and other bones. So far, Ethan has spent 40 days in the hospital for chemotherapy, overcome many bone marrow aspirations and several spinal taps.
Not only do the Bairos’ alternate caring for Ethan, but also take care of his younger sister Madelyn and work on their recently purchased, “fixer upper” house. Financial concerns started to arise when Debbie was unable to work at her job as a Pampered Chef consultant and Manny’ was reduced to part-time hours as a Jordan’s Furniture Team Leader until Ethan is through with his two-year treatment.
Debbie appreciated the overwhelming generosity of family and friends, but also turned to foundations for help. Through a family member, she applied online and received a mortgage payment from the Joe Andruzzi Foundation that made a tremendous difference financially by alleviating some of their concerns. They even had a chance to meet the Andruzzi family one day in the Jimmy Fund Clinic and were overwhelmed by their authenticity and compassion.
“Not only does Joe walk around the clinic and meet patients, but also he never rushes, looks you in the eyes, asks good questions and truly cares about your situation,” said Debbie Bairos. “He lets the kids try on his Super Bowl rings and takes lots of picture. Most impressive, is that he brings his whole family and shows the importance of these visits.”
Although at risk for overexposure to the sun, Ethan enjoys limited time outdoors this summer in a pool and on the annual Codzilla Ride for patients sponsored by the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. For Debbie and Manny, Codzilla was a treat for the whole family since they can’t afford “extras” right now.
“You only can take one day and one moment at a time. That’s what gets us through,” continued Debbie. “Ethan was an extremely healthy child so this took us all by surprise. My advice to parents is think positively, have faith and check things out before they progress.”
While it’s still early in their treatment cycle, the Bairos family is trying to pay it forward by starting their own foundation that helps families with children battling cancer. They want people to know that they’re not alone and the little things do matter.
Ethan is getting a lot of support from his school as well and will enter the second grade this fall. His sister just wants to return to the days when the family was all together all the time.