CLOVER — Four-year-old Wesley Gilland came home from the hospital last week, free from cancer after three months of battling a brain tumor. And thanks to a community that pulled together, his homecoming was a little easier.
Treatments and surgeries since late December at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte have left him too weak to walk, so Wesley is in a wheelchair. The community and the Home Depot store in RiverGate shopping center at Steele Creek worked together to provide a ramp at the family’s Clover home.
“It was awesome. Words can’t even express how excited I am,” said Lucinda Gilland, the 29-year-old mother of Wesley and two other boys. “I can’t believe it.”
And the wheelchair ramp isn’t all. Home Depot and its team of associates also provided a playground set for Wesley and his brothers: Blake, 7, and Lucas, 2. The store donated a window air conditioning unit and a ceiling fan to cool Wesley’s room, too.
Two charitable groups – Justin Mychals Child Cancer Benefit and Lake Wylie Children’s Charity – provided the nonprofit status through which the donations could be made, said Sid Smith, a board member for both groups.
“This is a shining example of what a community – whether it be volunteers, charities or a business – coming together can do,” Smith said.
He said the charities reached out to Home Depot, which agreed to not only donate the materials, but also to build the ramp.
Lucinda Gilland said she and husband, Jon, have been waiting for three months for their son to come home. He was diagnosed in late December with medulloblastoma, an aggressive and rare cancer. He underwent weeks of intense chemotherapy and radiation.
“He’s just really weak right now,” she said, adding that he had a tracheotomy and can’t talk. “But he has been really excited for the past few days because he knows he’s going to come home.”
The family has a lot to feel good about: Gilland said the last scan found no cancer in Wesley’s body.
Wesley became sick and nauseous before Christmas. His younger brother, Lucas, had a stomach virus, so she thought it was probably the same thing. Wesley also fell on the steps at a relative’s home during the holidays, and the couple wasn’t sure why.
Over several days – which included visits to the family pediatrician, then to a local emergency room – Wesley’s condition didn’t improve. Instead, it seemed to worsen, so the Gillands decided to take him to Levine. He was admitted, and that evening he began to have seizures.
An MRI found a tumor in the back of his brain, Gilland said. A full-body scan showed the tumor had spread down his spine. Doctors immediately began to treat him with six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, she said.
Gilland said Wesley has been in bed for the past three months.
“The doctors feel like he’ll do (better) once he comes home. We hope that he won’t be in a wheelchair for very long.”
As the family prepared to bring Wesley home, Smith said the two charities reached out to Home Depot and asked if the store could help. John Reinke, manager of a store in the RiverGate shopping center in Steele Creek, said the store wouldn’t just donate materials, it would build the ramp.
“One of our goals is to be involved in our community and give back when we can,” Reinke said. Reinke agreed to donate the playground equipment, as well, because Wesley has two brothers.
“I figured they had a rough time and said, ‘Hey, let’s give them a place where he can play while he’s recovering, so they can have a little fun at the house.’ ”
Gilland said the family has had an intense three months. She said her sons are eager to be home together, playing on the playground set and getting back to normal.
“We went from three healthy boys to Wesley being in the hospital,” she said. “It was something we were never expecting.”