Four-year-old Wesley Gilland came home from the hospital last week, free from cancer after three months of battling a brain tumor. Thanks to a community that pulled together, his homecoming was a little easier.
Treatments and surgeries since late December at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte have left him too weak to walk, so Wesley is in a wheelchair. The community and a Home Depot store worked together to provide a ramp at the family’s Clover home.
“It was awesome. Words can’t even express how excited I am,” said Lucinda Gilland, the 29-year-old mother of Wesley and two other boys. “I can’t believe it.”
And the wheelchair ramp isn’t all. Home Depot and its team of associates also provided a playground set for Wesley and his brothers, Blake, 7, and Lucas, 2. The store also donated a window air conditioning unit and a ceiling fan to cool Wesley’s room.
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Two charitable groups – the Justin Mychals Child Cancer Benefit and the Lake Wylie Children’s Charity – provided the nonprofit status through which the donations could be made, said Sid Smith, a board member for both groups.
“This is a shining example of what a community, whether it be volunteers, charities or a business, coming together can do,” Smith said.
He said the charities reached out to Home Depot, which agreed to not only donate the materials, but also to build the ramp.
Lucinda Gilland said she and her husband Jon, have been waiting for three months for their son to come home. She said he was diagnosed in late December with medullablastoma, an aggressive and rare cancer, and underwent weeks of intense chemotherapy and radiation.
“He’s just really weak right now,” she said, adding that he has a tracheotomy and he can’t talk. “But he has been really excited for the past few days because he knows he’s going to come home.”
But the family has a lot to feel good about. Gilland said a scan last week found no cancer in Wesley’s body.
Gilland said Wesley became sick and nauseous right before Christmas, but his younger brother, Lucas, had a stomach virus and she thought it was probably the same thing. He also fell on the steps at a relative’s home during the holidays and the couple wasn’t sure why.
Over several days, which included visits to the family pediatrician, then to a local emergency room, Wesley’s condition didn’t improve, and seemed to worsen, so the Gillands decided to take him to Levine. He was admitted, and that evening he began to have seizures.
An MRI found a tumor in the back of his brain, Gilland said. A full-body scan showed the tumor had spread down his spine. Doctors immediately began to treat him with six weeks of chemo and radiation, she said.
Gilland said Wesley has been in bed for the past three months.
“The doctors feel like he’ll do a total 360 degree once he comes home. We hope that he won’t be in a wheelchair for very long.”
As the family prepared to bring Wesley home, Smith said the two charities reached out to Home Depot and asked if the store could help. John Reinke, manager of a store in the Rivergate Mall in Steele Creek, N.C., said the store wouldn’t just donate materials – it would build the ramp.
“One of our goals is to be involved in our community and give back when we can,” Reinke said. “We love to do it with associates, and for good causes. How can you read his story and not be touched?”
Reinke said he agreed to donate the playground equipment as well because Wesley has two brothers.
“I figured they had a rough time and said, ‘Hey, let’s give them a place where he can play while he’s recovering, so they can have a little fun at the house.’ ”
Gilland said the family has had a very intense three months. And she said her sons are eager to be home together, playing on the playground set, getting back to normal.
“We went from three healthy boys to Wesley being in the hospital,” she said. “It was something we were never expecting.”