Posted on March 14, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Friday, Mar 15 at 5:54 AM
POULSBO, Wash. -- The first day of school is supposed to be a day filled with excitement.
That was supposed to be the case for 6-year-old Ian Gunnell. The 1st grader at Poulsbo’s Vinland Elementary loves school, super heroes, and playing games with his friends and family.
But that first day will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
“We had noticed several weird symptoms,” said his mom Tanya Gunnell. She took him to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Doctors did tests on the six-year-old and then delivered the report card.
“It was most likely leukemia.” said Tanya, her voice wavering as she described how doctors told her that Ian suffered from a rare form of the disease, “It kind of…takes your breath away.”
Friends back in Poulsbo heard about the developments, and total strangers did too.
“We found out about Ian’s story through friends of ours,” said Laura Nesby, owner of Mor Mor restaurant on Front Street.
She instantly felt a connection.
Her son Oan is also six years old. Both Oan and Ian were born premature.
“They both had a similar story to start their lives,” said Laura, “We felt a kinship there, especially since they were both born early.”
She held a fundraiser for Ian. Other businesses did the same. There were coffee shops, dentists, churches, standup comics, and lemonade stands who had events to help with Ian’s care. Friends called it “Positive Fight Mode for Ian."
As of Thursday, the ‘PFM for Ian’ grassroots effort had raised $115,000.
There was also a gift that was priceless.
“That’s one right there,” says Oan, as he points to the wall at his parents restaurant. “A dragon, a dragon I made at school.” The sketch was just one in series of artwork by Oan.
He made another one, just for Ian.
“He’s sick and I want him to feel better,” says Oan, about the dragon he made for his 6-year-old friend. “Dragons help kill cancer, and help people feel well.”
That piece of art now hangs on Ian’s wall, at an apartment in Seattle. He needs to be close to Children’s for the numerous chemotherapy treatments. The dragon now serves as a reminder of the people who care about his fight, and the people who are throwing him a birthday party on Saturday.
“Unmprompted, out of the goodness of their hearts they just decided to do something about it, completely understanding and wonderful,” says Tanya, again her voice wavering. “It’s heartbreaking we’re not heading home for good, on the other hand, we’re celebrating a birthday and not enough can be said for that.”
What is Ian’s long-term prognosis?
“We’re very hopeful,” says Tanya.
Ian phrases it another way, when asked how he’s feeling, “Happy."