DONALD "ROSS" ELLIOTT III
On December 25, 2010, Donald “Ross” Elliott III was a seemingly happy, HEALTHY 2 and a half year-old. He opened gifts, ate candy, terrorized the cousins, and enjoyed a terrific, NORMAL Christmas, at least we thought. When we put him to bed that night, he began to cry and say that his legs hurt. He continued to toss & turn for the next several hours without sleeping, so his parents made the decision to take him to the emergency room. At that time, doctors thought his bowels were bound, so they sent him home with stool softeners. For the next 8 hours, he continued to toss and turn and complain of hurting. When he started to run a high-grade fever, he was, again, taken to the hospital. At roughly 1:00 a.m. on December 27th, we received the devastating news that Ross would be admitted to Children’s Mercy Hospital and tested for Leukemia.
There are no words to describe what it’s like to see your “best little friend” laying in a hospital bed and crying out in pain whenever someone tried to move him, or to see your son & daughter-in-law with tears running down their cheeks and quickly brushing them away so that they could be strong for their son. Even so, Ross would turn to us dozens of times a day and say “I love you”. It’s almost like he knew we needed his words of encouragement.
It was soon determined that Ross had a fairly rare type of cancer know as Acute Megakaryoblastic Leukemia M-7 (AML M-7). AML-M7 represents approximately 1% of all Leukemia’s during childhood, and has an incidence of 0.5 per million per year. He would need to begin chemotherapy immediately, and would eventually need a bone marrow transplant in order to have a chance at survival.
Over the next 8 months, Children’s Mercy Hospital became Ross’ home-away-from-home. He referred to it as his apartment. There were some pretty scary times at first, but then the chemo began to kick in and he would run the halls wielding a sword and taking on anyone in sight, or giggle as he shot nerf bullets at the doctors and nurses. He never met a stranger and quickly made a name for himself on 4 Henson.
A bone marrow donor was found and, in late May, Ross underwent a bone marrow transplant. We were told that he would be in the hospital for roughly 6 to 8 weeks, but being the little warrior that he was, he made it home in 4 weeks. His time at home was short lived though. Complications set in and he returned to Children’s Mercy where he earned his angel wings on September 1, 2011.
We still miss our amazing little guy each and every day, but thank God that he was loaned to us for 3 and a half short years. He was such a loving and caring child who, up to the last minute, continued to tell us “I love you to the moon & back, and that’s a lot”. He is no longer in pain and is spreading sunshine all over Heaven.
Because of the children and families that touched us through this experience, we decided to form Ross’ Foundation, a foundation that supports children battling cancer and their families (www.ross-foundation.org). Ross’ Foundation raises money to give to those families to help ease their financial burden and hopefully help to relieve some of the stress that goes along with dealing with such a horrific disease.
I have had the pleasure of working with Vanbros & Associates for over 12 years and they have become part of my extended family. They provided a multitude of support for my family and me during Ross’ battle. Shortly after we decided to form Ross’ Foundation, John Vannatta informed our family that Vanbros wanted to do something to help us in our efforts. Therefore, they formed Warriors for Ross, a group dedicated to helping raise funds for Ross’ Foundation, along with bringing awareness to childhood cancer. We could not be more humbled, or thrilled to be their official charity of choice. Through their work and dedication, there is no doubt that they will touch many young lives and help to further the work of finding a cure.