For Van Wertâ€™s Spencer Carroll, the idea of an airplane ride was enough to keep him focused on living, in spite of the serious nature of his illness, childhood brain-stem giloma.
Spencer was diagnosed with the rare childhood cancer in February, following a fall at home. At the time, medical personnel at the childrenâ€™s hospital in Columbus told his parents, Eddie and Laura Carroll, that he had anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to live.
“Spencer fell in February and we took him to the emergency room. They gave him a cat scan and saw something in the middle of his brain,â€ Laura Carroll said. â€œAfter a further test, we rushed him to the childrenâ€™s hospital in Columbus.
â€œThere they told us that he was in the last stages of a very rare cancer in children,â€ Laura Carroll said. â€œThey told us that victims usually live up to six months, but they gave me a week to two months for him. That diagnosis was on Feb 28.â€
Since that initial diagnosis, the community has surrounded the Carrolls with support. Thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation, Spencer, his mother, and her children, were flown to Florida to visit Sea World, Animal Kingdom, and Disney World. It was the plane ride to Florida that gave the 3-year-old youngster the desire for another plane ride.
â€œHe canâ€™t talk anymore. All he can do is express himself with motions. He kept moving his hands as though he were flying a plane,â€ Eddie Carroll said. â€œItâ€™s all he wanted. As his health started to weaken, we knew that we had to get in it soon.â€
Eddie called the Van Wert County Airport, but the airport manager and her husband, Jennifer and Bryan Oetting, who usually give such flights, were out of town. Airport officials turned to Fred Pond, a member of the local airport board, but his plane was being repaired in Portland, Ind.
Thatâ€™s when things started to happen quickly, almost miraculously, as far as Pond was concerned.
At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Pond received a phone call that his plane was repaired and would be delivered to Van Wert immediately. A time of 6:30 p.m. was set for Spenserâ€™s plane ride. At 6:15 p.m., another complication appeared on the horizon when a light weather cell formed over the airport, dropping some sprinkles of rain.
â€œEveryone showed up right on time and I looked at the weather and felt I really needed to do that that night,â€ Pond said. â€œSpencer had lost his ability to speak, his face and eyes were swollen and he was having some trouble breathing. He could move his little hand slightly toward the plane, but mostly just remained in his motherâ€™s lap.â€
At 6:30 p.m., to Pondâ€™s happy surprise, there was a sudden shift in weather conditions, clearing things for a peaceful plane ride.
â€œTwo churches were offering prayers for him and his family at 6:30 p.m.,â€ Pond said. â€œThe wind shifted 40 degrees in a few moments and the light cell stopped the dayâ€™s thermal activity. Spencer received a smooth ride that he thoroughly enjoyed. Very seldom have I seen a wind shift like that and it happened exactly at 6:30 p.m.
â€œIt was such a wonderful ride. It didnâ€™t take me long to figure out that this wasnâ€™t about me,â€ Pond said. â€œToo many things fell together. We were all very touched by the way things worked out for him.â€
â€œHeâ€™s the baby. Heâ€™s our â€˜Little Eâ€™ (little Eddie),â€ Eddie Carroll said. â€œHe is such an inspiration to all of us. His spirits are unbelievable.â€
Laura Carroll said Spenserâ€™s countenance has been calmer since the plane ride.
â€œHe seems more relaxed and settled in. Even though he canâ€™t talk, you can tell that that plane ride was what he was waiting for,â€ Laura Carroll said.
â€œSomething like this makes you more sensitive to the things around you. You look at life in a different way when you look at it through the eyes of a child,â€ Laura Carroll said. â€œThe people of this community have been something. Weâ€™ve heard from churches weâ€™ve never heard of. Everything, maybe just a prayer, helps a lot. You really need all of this.â€