BELMONT, NC (WBTV) - He was supposed to be with us at the Dream On 3 gala the other weekend, but 5-year-old Brody Thornburg, of Belmont, was told by doctors it was too risky. Too many germs.
So instead, this Belmont boy sent a video to the 500 of us in the Ritz Ballroom.
Dressed up in a suit and dancing as he talked, Brody's personality filled the room. The video was one none of us watching will soon forget.
Days later, his mom reached out to give more background on her son's story.
It started in February 2015. Brody's mom, Crystal, took him to a doctor because he was randomly bruising and he had little red dots on his face. From there, he was rushed him to St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Novant Health Hemby Children's Hospital where he was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a rare blood disease.
We say "rare," but it's the same thing little Glenn Jackson in Cherryville battled. We just featured him just a few weeks ago.
Eventually, Brody had a bone marrow transplant at UNC Children's - North Carolina Children's Hospital.
Things were going well until May of last year when Brody's counts started d ropping again. By June, he had officially relapsed. By October, he had another bone marrow transplant and ended up contracting the dreaded Graft vs Host disease.
"This is a condition that occurs when a donor's bone marrow attacks the recipient," Crystal said. "It hit Brody hard. We had to watch him suffer for another 30+ days, and had no idea if we were going to beat this. But we did. I mean, he did. By the second week of January, finally, he was able to come home."
The goal now is to get Brody's counts back up to normal. This means he's confined to a bubble.
"No school, no birthday parties, no swimming pools and no large crowded activities," Crystal says. "His immune system is too weak, and any type of sickness could set him back further."
His hashtag is #BrodyManStrong. Both parents say it's fitting.
"He pushes through hurdles with a huge amount of strength, bravery and courage," Brody's dad, Brian, said. "People often tell us, 'Oh, but he looks so good," because they don't understand that severe aplastic anemia is an internal blood battle and what's often going on inside his body can't be seen on the outside."
"We share this story to offer encouragement and hope to anyone who needs some," Crystal said. "Strength can overcome daily struggles.
I have learned that the kids who battle these awful diseases fight harder than anyone I've ever met. Their spirits aren't broken even when they probably should be."