A phone call distracted the mother of Brandon Madsen just as she was about to corner him. He quickly ducked outside with a football to join his big brother and friends. It wasn't dishwashing duty or homework or bedtime that caused 10-year-old Brandon to disappear. Brandon had 10 minutes of freedom left before being hooked up for the next 12 hours to the intravenous solution that keeps him alive.
The Madsen family of Pleasant Grove are big fans of Primary Children's Hospital, where Brandon's extensive surgery was performed. Brandon recently spent a long day helping make a promotional commercial for the Festival of Trees, which benefits the hospital, and then he took time to appear in the Deseret News photo as well.Brandon's mom, Linda, said, "Brandon's body just doesn't assimilate food, so thank God for the nutrition solution. We love Primary Children's Hospital. The nurses are wonderful - they spoil Brandon rotten. They're always quibbling over who gets to work with him."
It isn't hard to figure out why nurses love to be around Brandon and his upbeat personality. No matter how many tubes Brandon has connected to his body, when asked how he is, he'll say, "Fine."
"He just doesn't complain, he's not a whiner," said his mother. "At the beginning of school I go in and talk to his teachers and tell them there will be days he's not going to be well and if he says he can't do something, don't push him. At parent/teacher conferences the other day, one teacher said, `You know, if it wasn't for the fact that there's a bulge in the front of Brandon's shirt, I could never tell there's anything the matter. He's always doing something and involved in everything,' " Brandon's mother recalled.
"We'll be sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner this week and while everyone make a pig of themselves, Brandon might be able to put a spoonful in his mouth," Linda Madsen said. "We take our bodies so much for granted."
Jason Albrecht is 9 years old and has a little brother that has spina bifida. Travis Albrecht had surgery at Primary Children's Hospital to graft skin from his thigh to his back. Since Travis is just 4 years old, Jason was worried for his little brother. "They have nice doctors there. One doctor kept talking to Travis and holding his hand so he wouldn't be scared," Jason said.
When Travis came to be in the photo to tell people about the upcoming Festival of Trees, an irrepressible smile lit his face. Big brother Jason also has positive feelings about Primary Children's Hospital. "They gave Travis balloons," he said approvingly.
Melanie Pando battled a malignant tumor that wrapped around her spinal cord. While at Primary Children's Hospital she was impressed with the nurses. "They are really good to children," she said. "They are so friendly there. Especially at the new hospital." Melanie wasn't sure that starring in the Festival of Trees television commercial was all she had thought it would be. "It took a lot of work and was tiring. They did it over and over because they wanted it just right," she said.
Perhaps oncology is a softer word than cancer or leukemia. Oncology patient Danielle Price is 3 years old. Her mother said, "We'd rather not have to be in any hospital if we had our choice, but the kindness and compassion of the nurses makes Primary Children's Hospital just a neat place."
Ty Hawkins is a bubbly 2-year-old whose red hair has grown back. His dad, Steve, said, "As many times as Ty's been back to the clinic, two and three times a week, he has no fear of visiting the hospital. You can't believe all that they do to make it a pleasant experience - from the personality of the nurses to the guy that sings for the kids and all those toys."
The Hawkins family was pleased to have their little boy appear in the promotional commercial and in the newspaper. Steve Hawkins' voice became very soft as he said, "When we first found out about Ty's disease, to us it was fatal. We had no idea that 80 to 85 percent of leukemia patients can be cured. We thought we were facing D-day and now our life can go on. It's almost too good to be true."