There is a Hindu proverb that reads, “Help your brother's boat across, and your own will reach the shore.” For brothers David and Daniel this is certainly true. Younger brother David was born three years ago with a Giant Omphalocele, meaning that his abdominal wall did not fully form, allowing some of his internal organs to protrude on the outside of his body through the umbilical cord. David spent the first year of his life in the hospital. Daniel, just 19 months older than his little brother, grew up in hospitals waiting for his brother to get better.
“I think it was hardest on Daniel,” says the boys' mother, Tracy. She recalls a memory, when they finally got home from the hospital, where Daniel had a request that would normally be taken for granted from a child. He said, “Mom, can I yell now?” Thankfully, after multiple surgeries and hours of sitting patiently and quietly, both boys are finally comfortable at home, whooping it up like other kids their age. One of their favorite pastimes is to set up a tent and pretend they are camping.
With the help of the Children's Wish Foundation and the generosity of South 20 Dodge in Humboldt, the family have been given a trailer that they can take to the woods and camp for real. The camper will also help facilitate trips to the Calgary Children's Hospital for David's future treatments. “We're portable,” says Tracy. “We can go where David needs to be.”
There will still be a number of difficult surgeries to endure, but all six members of the Sweeney family take it in stride. “Anything they said he’ll never do; he does,” says Brent, the boys’ Dad. “They said he wouldn't survive; he did. He's tough --- like his big brother.”
Doctors believed that because his abdomen was underdeveloped, David would lack the strength to walk. But he surprised them by walking, running, and even dancing. “He likes to do what his brother does,” says Tracy. “We have our hands full with very energetic little boys --- and it's awesome!”
The boys have been practicing their fishing technique with plastic play fishing rods, and are looking forward to catching some fish using gummy worms for bait. “If we get to go camping, it's a gift,” says Tracy. “Everything is a gift with David.”
David seems to instinctively understand and appreciate his gift of life. He is a happy child and in person he sparkles like sunshine, inspiring those around him. His mom talks of his time in the hospital as an infant. “He would say thank you to the nurses using sign language. I didn't teach him that.” With a twinkle in his eye like Old Saint Nick, David says that when he grows up he wants to be Santa Claus. To which his best friend and brother Daniel adds, “that's because he gives his gift to other people.”