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Heroes Project 2019: William Brendan O’Donovan

“William’s journey battling leukemia has shown me just how precious the simple moments are.” —William’s mom, Destini

It was a seemingly simple moment between a mom and her little boy. Three-year-old William O’Donovan and mom Destini were playing together when something struck them as funny. Destini thought, “Wow! My kid is laughing right now and that is no small thing.”

It was no small thing indeed. On the contrary, it was a huge thing. They were a month into William’s treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and were living at the Aflac unit of Children’s Hospital of Atlanta (CHOA). Before that, laughing was no big deal. William was effortlessly meeting all the usual markers on the road to childhood leading up to his first birthday—learning to walk, understanding words—when two weeks later his family received the gut-wrenching ALL diagnosis.

He had just learned to walk before having a port sewn into his chest, through which he received his chemotherapy. Once that induction phase started, William lost his ability to walk and lost a lot of weight, which necessitated the need for a feeding tube.

“William’s diagnosis of leukemia made it impossible to take any amount of progress for granted,” says Destini, whose whole family, obviously, has been affected by his condition. But it’s also given all of them a new way of looking at life.

“There are many helpers in this world and an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. William’s journey battling leukemia has shown me just how precious the simple moments are,” says Destini. “When William wakes up in the morning we are full of gratitude. His life, to me, is full of meaning and purpose. This has spilled over into every interaction with another person. Life is so valuable.”

Now in the maintenance phase of his treatments, William visits the hospital once a month and Destini administers his chemotherapy at home. He has less than a year until the medications, the sedations, and the hospital visits will be things of the past. In the meantime, William is more concerned with the future.

“At Christmas, the doctor will put me to sleep and they will take my port out,” says this little optimist. “I will wake up and I won’t take steroids anymore. I don’t get to play soccer but I can when I am a four-year-old.”

That’s the plan: get the port out, then get the lead out, heading off to kindergarten and soccer. His rosy outlook has had an effect on William’s mom, who says, “I learned to, instead of counting the days, make the days count.” So every day is an adventure for William and his family.

“We would get up every morning despite his diagnosis and start our day thankful. We would shower, get out of our PJ’s, go for a walk and an adventure, even if just on the hospital campus. William truly embraces every day with optimism. And now I do too.”

William’s story made possible by a grant from Conserva Irrigation of North Atlanta

Thank you for helping us to share William’s inspirational story.

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