Caring for patients with cancer is challenging for victims and caregivers alike, particularly when the patient is a young child. 4-year old Drew Esposito, who is undergoing extensive treatment for brain cancer at Norton Children’s Hospital, has a number of distractions at his disposal but the most fun would have to be a Nerf game! With the nurses!
At the end of 2018, Drew was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a rare form of cancer that is also the most common cancerous brain tumor in children. After weeks-long bouts of headaches and vomiting, parents Jeremy and Sondra Esposito, of LaGrange, Kentucky brought him to the hospital. A brain scan would bring about the most heartbreaking news on Christmas Eve.
Jeremy recalled, “Sure enough, there was a lime sized tumor in the back of his brain that was blocking his fifth ventricle and was imperative to remove it immediately. On Christmas morning he went into surgery, and while they gave us hourly updates from the OR, it was almost midnight that evening when our surgeon came in to tell us that he had gotten it all.”
Drew then had to undergo chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay. “We chose a protocol that would take us through more than nine months of grueling chemotherapy with multiple complications, spending weeks and months at a time in the hospital at Norton Children’s hospital,” explained Jeremy.
The family, including siblings William, 11, and Katie, 7, has tried their best to keep Drew’s spirits up. The long periods of confinement, however, can be tedious.
Jeremy said, “He is an athletic kid with a bold but sweet personality. When you are stuck in the hospital for weeks at a time, you find things to pass the hours. When he was feeling bad, he would stay on his iPad or the TV for days, or even sleep due to the pain meds. But, when he started to feel better, crazy little Drew would want to come out to play! So he created a bond with many of the nurses, playing cards, board games, and playdough.”
Soon enough, Drew was looking for something livelier for playtime. “When he was feeling extra energetic he would want to have a Nerf game with Mommy or Daddy. Well, eventually that turned into bringing the nurses in for battles! And as we battled more, we got more guns, different types of guns and costumes, and the nurses would play along!”
Nurse Taylor Bergman explained, “He had kind of started shooting me with the Nerf guns and he said he got a kick out of the fact that nurses and versus rhymed. So he wanted a nurse fight, so I ran out in the hallway and the only nurse I could find was Meg (Garl).”
A 30-minute nerf game ensued, the start of many fun Nerf battles between the staff and the young boy. “It was spur of the moment. We opened the door and little did we know Drew was ready, suited up in a superhero costume, too.”
Jeremy was all praises for the nurses. “They are literally angels on earth. That fight on the video, and the dozens not filmed, were an escape for our buddy, even if it was just a little bit of time. It was a way for him to stay active while trapped in that room during his bone marrow transplant for months on end. It was a way for him to take out frustration, and most importantly for Sondra and I, it offered invaluable bonding time between us and our son.”
The video is a testament to the dedication of the nurses and staff of Norton Children’s Hospital to their patients. According to Esposito, “As far as I am concerned we will be lifelong friends. The love mixed with skill is unmatched to any profession that I can think of. These ladies and guys, in addition to the very adept and compassionate doctors at Norton’s, are forever burnt in our hearts as the saviors of our little boy.”
The epic Nerf game has since gone viral! Take a look at fun and heartwarming video below: