YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - Two years ago, a Tega Cay family was at Carowinds when their 8-year-old son suddenly barely had the energy to walk out of the amusement park. They went to the doctor the next day.
“My dad had to go back in and get me a water because I was about to pass out,” said now 10-year-old Sydney Aquilino.
Mom Angela knew something was off for Sydney. The next day they were at the doctor where Sydney was tested for mono because doctors said it was going around. But the results of the bloodwork changed their lives.
“They said it’s not mono, but we suspect a malignancy and that was kind of I think kind of from there where my mind kind of went blank,” said Angela Aquilino. “He was in ICU at Hemby for a couple of days.”
“It was not good,” said Sydney’s little brother, Luca, who was 5-years-old at the time.
The diagnosis? T-Cell ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Doctors at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital had Sydney airlifted to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
“Of course I had heard of St. Jude before and I’ve seen all the commercials and everything, but it definitely took on a whole new meeting from that point on especially once we got there and saw everything,” said Angela.
The Aquilinos say they were overwhelmed. But they were not alone.
“Ultimately there was someone there the whole time, checking vitals, making us feel safe,” said Sydney’s dad, Chris.
“They put us in an apartment a two-bedroom apartment they supplied us with whatever kind of dry goods and things we needed. Every week they’d go shopping for us, soap, they gave us money for groceries,” added Angela.
Because of some setbacks, Sydney’s initial 10-week treatment plan turned into 4 months.
“They just really took care of our needs to make it so that we could focus on Sydney and his health, rather than have to worry about everything else,” said Angela.
Their journey has been a rollercoaster they never wanted to ride, but one of the highs came in the Fall of 2018. The day Sydney was said to be in remission at St. Jude. Not long after, he came home.
“He should be getting his last treatment God-willing next May, and he’s doing awesome,” said Angela.
Sydney goes in once a week right now for treatments and check-ups at the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital here in Charlotte.
Today Sydney’s back to being able to do things that 10 year olds enjoy doing, including playing in his backyard with now 7-year-old brother Luca.
In the family’s backyard, you’ll also find a sign marking the miles from their home to some of the most important places in their lives. At the top, St. Jude.
“That’s as important as anything else on that list for us,” said Chris. “That was the place that really changed our lives.”
“The support that the hospital staff, like child life and nurses...,” said mom Angela who paused, fighting back tears.
On some days the words for those at the hospital can still be hard to find, but the entire family says they are grateful.
“Thank you so much for helping me and making me stronger and just curing it,” said Sydney.
The Aquilinos say they’re not sure what they’d do without St. Jude, especially when it comes to the medical bills.
Your purchase of a dream home ticket will help make sure families like the Aquilinos never have to pay for treatment, travel, housing or food.
Stay tuned to WBTV for more on the number to call or website to visit to get your tickets this Thursday, July 16th, for this year’s St. Jude Dream Home.