How does one put into words their innermost feelings, the feeling of overwhelming gratitude, the feeling of appreciation and the feeling of being loved after only just a few short days together? I don’t know, but I hope after reading this, one will understand how much the Catch-A-Dream Foundation means to our family.
Just a month prior to our scheduled departure to Little Flat Creek Ranch in Missouri, Carson suffered a very rare and serious side effect to one of his chemotherapy drugs. He almost lost his life due to his liver shutting down. His little belly was so distended it was difficult for him to move and he had to work extremely hard to breathe because there was so much fluid build-up on his lungs that he only had one-quarter of his lungs functioning. We spent 24 days in the hospital with 12 of those being in the ICU where he was on high flow oxygen and so many medicines going into his veins and oral medication that I lost count. He had roughly 35-40 transfusions of red blood cells and platelets, and a clotting factor called cryoprecipitate that was necessary because of the multiple transfusions. Through it all, Catch-A-Dream was there, an unforeseen yet very powerful force that meant the world to one little boy fighting for his life in the Intensive Care Unit in Augusta, GA. Brian’s calls were the highlight of Carson’s day and would bring about a small smile on an otherwise very sad face. It was those phone calls and the prospect of Carson’s dream hunt on the horizon that kept him fighting everyday. Whenever he was reluctant to take his medicine by mouth, I would remind him of what was waiting for him in September and he would go ahead and choke down the awful tasting medicine. He was finally well enough to go home to continue his recovery on August 24, just one short month prior to his dream hunt. The doctors weren’t sure he would be well enough to go, but he proved them wrong!
So, on the first day of Fall, September 23rd, we were headed to Missouri. It seems fitting that our adventure began on that day because it felt like we were closing the awful chapter of the summer and starting a new “season” in our lives. We arrived at the Springfield, Missouri airport and Marty picked us up and took us to Little Flat Creek Ranch, which seemed like heaven on earth and a million miles away from the hospital. It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. We were shown around the ranch and then we were shown to our room, and there laid out on the bed was a sea of camouflage clothing; everything Carson needed head to toe (and then some) for his hunt. The hats, shirts and jacket were embroidered with his name and the Little Flat Creek Ranch and Catch-A-Dream logos. Carson was speechless and I was in tears. For the next 3 days, volunteers, who up until then had been complete strangers, took care of us like we were family. They instantly made us feel at home and loved. Carson harvested a 9-point buck the first night and he was thrilled. In the “hero picture” it looked like he didn’t have a care in the world, and that is exactly how the Catch-A-Dream Foundation wants it, for these children to have a brief moment in time where they can be kids and not think about their illness and all that goes along with it.
The next day Carson and Cameron (his 15-year-old brother) went fishing in the pond on the ranch and caught the next day’s lunch of catfish because they didn’t want the dreaded possum stew that had been threatened! Needless, to say they fished their hearts out and caught 9 catfish for the lunch feast!
Before the boys were finished fishing, a volunteer came along and took the catfish and had it cleaned and ready to be cooked by the time we got back around to the other side of the pond for our picnic! The Catch-A-Dream people and Little Flat Creek volunteers thought of absolutely everything. Every detail was taken care of and we didn’t have to think about anything except spending time with our children and new friends, which is a relief in the world of childhood cancer where so many decisions have to be made on a daily basis.
It was with a heavy heart and tears that we had to leave Little Flat Creek and all of our new friends the next morning. Marty said the night before that we may forget the people we met and move on, but that Catch-A-Dream and Little Flat Creek would forever keep us in their hearts…I’m here to say we will NEVER forget what Catch-A-Dream and Little Flat Creek Ranch did for our 9-year-old little boy that weekend – they helped him recapture the “spirit” of his carefree days prior to the cancer diagnosis.
How does one put feelings into words…I don’t know as words seem so inadequate, but I hope you get even just a small “feeling” from reading this for our gratitude to Mr. Bill for opening up his ranch to us, Mr. Marty, the Catch-A-Dream Foundation and every one of the volunteers who made one little boy’s dream come true.
~Kristin Busby, Mother of 9-year-old boy battling leukemia