Photo: University of Delaware
Danny Feltwell, a young six-year-old boy, was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma when he was just two years old. After undergoing countless procedures and just four months from being considered fully cured, Danny relapsed and had to be re-hospitalized. The doctors found that a large tumor was suppressing Danny’s superior vena cava and bronchial tubes, thus making it more difficult for him to properly breathe. He had to undergo surgery and immediately afterwards, he was started on chemotherapy.
With his immune system weakened, Danny was readmitted to the hospital for treatment of a severe infection. He is in need of a bone marrow transplant that would replace his current immune system with a new and healthier one – capable of tackling the large tumor. “Anything that would lift my son's spirits would absolutely be appreciated. He loves getting cards, reading letters. It makes him feel better. It lets him know people care. There is no greater gift,” said Daniel Feltwell Jr., Danny’s father.
Being a match for bone marrow transplant
Since bone marrow makes around 200 billion new blood cells each day, a bone marrow transplant is an individual’s best chance at survival and a possible cure. Danny’s father is encouraging local residents to get tested and see not only if they are a match for Danny, but also for other children battling cancer. “Danny is fortunate that there is a 98 percent chance that he will find a match based on his genetic background. But there are other children on the same hallway as Danny from an ethnically diverse background who will have a smaller chance, and in some cases, they have only a 40 percent chance of finding a genetic match. That’s why we are calling on everybody to step forward and be someone’s hero. As Danny says ‘All kids deserve a match.’” said Danny’s father.
Danny’s bravery and resilience has inspired numerous local organizations to hold “Be The Match” donor registration events at the New Castle County Gilliam Building and at the University of Delaware. The events are open to all willing participants ages 18-44, and they can remove themselves whenever they wish. Those who choose to come to the event do not need to register in advance; however, individuals ages 45-60 who register online to receive a testing kit must also pay a $100 registration fee.
Donation is not as complicated as it seems
The entire procedure is rather quick, as it merely takes 15 minutes to complete the paperwork and undergo a painless cheek swab. “Myths regarding the donation process prevent many people from joining in the first place. Many people believe the myths perpetuated by TV and movies that donating is incredibly painful with a long recovery time,” said Aimee Haskew, a representative for Be The Match. In fact, a majority of donors are back to school or work the following day and Haskew stresses that most reveal they would donate a second time around ‘in a heartbeat’.
“Danny’s courage and energy and his family’s optimism for the future are an inspiration, but Danny and others need our help to give cancer patients the best chances for successful treatment,” said Matt Meyer, County Executive. Local government officials and the University of Delaware Police Department have been encouraging local residents to participate in the donation events and they are also collecting letters and gifts for Danny. Detective Bill Wentz even wrote a letter to Danny’s favorite football player, Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, who sent a recorded Facebook message to Danny. “What’s up Danny? Carson Wentz here. Man, I’ve been hearing about you, I’ve read about you, I heard you were a huge eagles fan and I definitely just wanna thank you for your support, it means a ton to us. I know we have a bunch of young fans out there and you know that just gives us a lot of things to play for and it inspires us to play for. So, I just want you to know when I'm out there playing, I'm playing for people like you. And also, I just want you to know, I'm praying for you. I'm praying for you, I'm wishing you the best, thinking about you. Again, I just hope to see you at some more Eagles’ games and keep cheering us on. God bless you bro,” said Wentz.
A message from Joe Biden
Former vice president Joe Biden also sent a recorded Facebook message for Danny - “Hey Danny, this is Joe Biden, vice president of the White House. You and I got a lot in common. We love the Eagles and we love the University of Delaware Blue Hens, where I tried to play when I was in college there. You know Danny, you’re a real fighter and I am looking forward to the day that I watch you walk out on that field and play for the Blue Hens. I'll be there cheering for you. You know, we’ve had a lot of cancer in our family and everybody’s made it through – a vast majority. My son Beau had cancer. You’re a fighter and half the fight is the fight in the guy. You know I’ve been saying in football, it’s not just the talent, it’s the fight in the man. Well, you’re a heck of a man and I look forward to seeing you one of these days. Now, the only thing I ask you, when I come to see you and the nurse says I’m outside and they say Joe Biden is out there, don’t say Joe who, OK? Because everybody forgets vice presidents real quickly. Danny, you’re a fighter, you’re gonna make it and I run a big cancer foundation now pal and they are making enormous, enormous big strides in curing cancer and fixing people. So, hang in there buddy. Hang in there. Really, really proud of you. You remind me of my son Beau and he was a real hero. He was the attorney general, he went to Iraq and fought in the war, he won the Bronze Star and the Conspicuous Service Medal. You’re just like my Beau. So, keep fighting pal. Keep fighting.”
Getting the chance to play
In 2012, Danny was adopted by the University of Delaware’s football team. He was given his own locker and number as part of the team - #26. “They've given my son the will to push forth and play and to see him today, you would never know” said Danny’s father. “They play with him and run on the football field with him. And as a father, that's all I ever wanted to see my son do, was to play, play like a child,” he added. During this time, Danny’s cancer is in remission. Although his treatment has caused some damage to his nerves, he is continuing to fight and showing remarkable improvement. His father credits the Delaware football team who have helped his son throughout this difficult time in his life. “When he comes here, he has a huge smile on his face, no matter how he's feeling. He's so excited to see us, and we love him. He makes you smile no matter what kind of mood you're in, no matter what kind of day we're having. We'll never have a day as tough as he's had. Ever. How tough is he, to be able to beat something like that? It's unbelievable,” said Ryan Cobb, fullback on the Delaware football team.