Times Staff Writer
The holidays are here and the thought of what to give friends and loved ones is on the minds of most people. But not everyone has to have a season or a reason to give. They just have to see a need.
Mark Trackwell, an employee at Spun Metals Inc., saw that the Brent Shaw family had a need and he wanted to help.
Brent is a 10-year-old Staunton 4th grader who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May. After a loss of appetite followed by persistent headaches and vomiting, his pediatrician, Dr. Z. Contreras, thought it might be migraines and prescribed medication. Brent couldn't keep the medicine down.
His mother, Beth Shaw, got a second opinion and that doctor said it might be an ulcer. Brent showed no improvement so they returned to Dr. Contreras who immediately ordered an MRI.
The test was done at 8 a.m. on May 23. Three hours later, after the Shaws had just returned home, they received an ominous phone call. They were told to go to their doctor's office as soon as possible. At the office, Brent was asked to remain in the waiting room while the doctor talked to his parents.
Randy and Beth were told their only child had a malignant tumor, a meduloblastoma, near the base of his brain. He was to have surgery at Riley Hospital the next day.
"I was in shock," Beth said. "Randy started crying. He said, 'How can a little kid get cancer?' We told Brent as soon as we got back in the waiting room and he started to cry.
"At the hospital the next day, before Brent went into the operating room, he said he was afraid. Not of the tumor or surgery. He was afraid he' d wake up during the surgery. Little did he know that his mom and dad were afraid he would not wake up at all.
"Brent has a wonderful sense of humor," Beth continued. "That's helped all of us get through this. The other day I told Brent that I'd give my right arm if this hadn't happened to him. He said, 'What would I do with two right arms?'"
Doctors believe they got all of the tumor but standard follow up care dictated that Brent receive radiation and chemotherapy. The radiation treatment was five days a week for six weeks at the I.U. Med Center. Now he's beginning 48 weeks of chemotherapy.
Though necessary, the treatments continue to take a toll on Brent. He's lost his hair and his 4-foot, 9-inch frame, which used to carry 93 pounds, now weighs in at 64 pounds.
While those physical changes don't seem to bother Brent, other side effects do. He tried to go half days when school started in the fall but was unable to continue because of severe fatigue and depression. And social outings must be monitored due to his repressed autoimmune system.
Brent will get home tutoring to keep up with academics. A doctor recommended medication, a routine schedule and an exercise program to help with the depression and fatigue.
The doctors said Brent has an 87 percent chance of beating the illness. With the help of his parents, friends, his beloved cat, Stormy, and a great sense of humor he will also survive the treatment.
Brent's mom, a homemaker, and dad, a boilermaker who works out of Union Local 374, have insurance on him. But deductibles, co-pays and the extra expenses for needs such as frequent trips to the IU Med Center have strained the family's finances.
Mark Trackwell heard about Brent when Spun Metals Inc. sponsored a golf scramble to benefit Brent and his family. Mark isn't a golfer but he wanted to be a part of something his company did that he thought was so nice. He was deeply touched by the little boy's plight.
"I have three children," Mark said, "and our biggest problem with them is getting them to clean their rooms. When I heard about Brent I thought how lucky I was that my children are healthy."
Spun Metal was scheduled to work the next Saturday as a time shifting day to make up for the week they'll be off at Christmas. Even though it was a make up day, the company still had to pay overtime to the workers.
"It seemed like we were getting paid that overtime but didn't really earn it," Mark said. "I decided I wanted to use it for something really good. I wanted to give it to the Shaw family."
Mark discussed it with his boss, Jeff Deakins, and a challenge was issued to the other workers. The men quickly responded. They raised over $1,400 for Brent's family.
The Shaws were amazed. "We were getting by," Beth said, "but the help we've received from Mark and Spun Metal and some other groups in the community has provided the extra that allows us to do some things we could not otherwise do.
"We were able to get Brent a pass to the YMCA so he can work on an exercise program. And I don't think we could have afforded to keep Stormy without this help.
"It's just wonderful what Mark's done. I met his son, Aaron. He was in Brent's class last year. Everybody's been wonderful. We're so thankful. It's hard to express but it's inspired us to give to others."