Monday, November 9, 2015
Jim Davis - Florida Catholic
FORT LAUDERDALE | Meeting the Chicago Bulls, his lifelong favorite team, was a dream come true for Parker Stevens. But when he was finally offered the honor this year, he gave a surprising response.
"I said, 'Don’t give it to me," he said at St. Anthony School, where he attends eighth grade. "It should go to someone who is more sick."
It was a surprising reaction because Parker is awaiting a kidney transplant — and the offer came from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. His mother and school officials convinced him to accept anyway.
His visit with the team came true in late October: He watched the Bulls practice one day, then served as honorary ball captain for the home opener.
"He's a fighter; he's courageous," Terry Maus, principal at the school, said of Parker. "We've been praying for him since May."
For the visit, Oct. 26 and 27, Parker got his own locker and posed for a photo and video with a statue of Michael Jordan at the United Center arena. He watched a practice with the team, then shot hoops afterward with team members Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.
He then did ball captain duties for the home opener, Oct. 27. His image loomed large at the overhead Jumbotron as he represented the Bulls at half-court.
And he came home with some team swag, including a backpack and a jacket, both emblazoned with the Bulls logo. He also has his one-day contract framed at home.
The Bulls visit is just one chapter in the illness that has made life tough for Parker since Feb. 15. He remembers waking up that day with pain in his right elbow. The next day, one leg or the other hurt. Then he felt extreme fatigue.
It took weeks of tests, but his condition was finally diagnosed at Joe DiMaggio Hospital. The condition impairs the function of the kidneys; in Parker's case, they have failed altogether, requiring frequent dialysis.
The offer from the Make-A-Wish Foundation was a definite bright spot. When its representatives met Parker's family, they knew what to request. Parker and his brother Talbot have long watched Bulls games together. Parker even had a Bulls-themed bar mitzvah celebration last year — complete with team T-shirts for all his friends there.
Yet he was inclined at first to pass up the privilege for the sake of other patients he deemed more needy. Maus, St. Anthony’s principal, was one of those who talked him into accepting anyway.
"You deserve it," she said at the time. "You missed the summer, with all the treatments."
He used to have to go to a hospital often for dialysis, circulating his blood through a machine to purify it. Now, though, he can have the procedure at home, undergoing the eight-plus-hour process overnight.
But he'll still need a kidney transplant, and his doctors are already planning that. He hopes to get a kidney by December or January.
One thing in his favor is his blood type: AB positive, sometimes called the "universal recipient" because it can accept any other type of blood. Another plus is his circle of family and friends — 20 of them have volunteered to donate a kidney.
The prospective donors include his two brothers, but Parker isn’t sure about them. "They'd hold it over me," he said with a smile.