A toddler battling cancer was nearly prevented from attending his own birthday celebration after another outburst by lawless, destructive rioters who attacked the charity home where he was staying.
Two-year-old Owen Buell has stage 4 neuroblastoma. He and his family were staying at the Ronald McDonald House in the Streeterville neighborhood of downtown Chicago during his ongoing treatment at nearby Lurie Children’s Hospital, according to WBBM Newsradio.
The family was planning to leave Monday to celebrate his second birthday at home in Joliet, Illinois.
“We were going to have cake and ice cream and do some presents at home with his siblings and his grandma,” Owen’s mother, Valerie Mitchell, told WBBM.
But riots that broke out in the city overnight Sunday and into Monday morning threw a wrench in their plans.
Rioters filled the streets of Chicago as they smashed out windows and looted.
One of their targets was the Ronald McDonald House, which provides housing for around 30 families whose seriously ill children are receiving treatment at the hospital.
Several of the charity house’s windows were smashed, and the front door also needed to be boarded up.
“The whole door was shattered and it looked like a bullet hole,” Mitchell said, “so I started freaking out thinking about how unsafe that was.”
Conditions were so bad in the area that nurses told the family it was not safe to walk to the hospital, which initially meant that the boy could not be medically discharged as planned.
“You shouldn’t feel that way when your kid needs medical care. You shouldn’t be afraid to walk a few blocks down the street,” Mitchell said.
“I ask myself why can he not just have cancer?” she added. “Why does there have to be coronavirus with it? Why is there all this protesting?
“I just feel like a lot of this stuff really makes it worse for him and our family. If he was going through treatment a year ago his siblings would be able to come here.”
Buell’s cancer was discovered when he was 17 months old.
He’d stopped eating and cried incessantly, but it wasn’t until one of his eyes became droopy and bruised that doctors figured out how sick he was in February, according to the Facebook page Help for Baby Owen Buell.
In a July 8 update, Owen’s great-grandmother, Jackie Moore, explained that the toddler had endured “tests, dozens of procedure, has a feeding tube, numerous ports, bone marrow tests, stem cell extractions, major abdominal surgery and so many things that I can’t remember them all.”
“This stem cell transplant recovery period is going to take a month followed by 2 weeks at the hospital’s Ronald McDonald house because he hast to be no farther away from the hospital than a half hour away,” the post explained.
As if that weren’t frightening enough for the boy and his family, a recent post described the sheer terror of the situation made worse by civil unrest right outside their door.
“Imagine being the parents of a little boy going through cancer treatment in the middle of a world pandemic,” page administrator Denise Kingsley wrote Wednesday.
“Then add to that the fact that right outside the door there are violent destructive acts taking place. Riots, looting and gunshots. The unthinkable has happened to this family and the tragedy of all of this has been exacerbated by the craziness of the world outside,” she said.
“Owen just celebrated 2 years on this planet. One quarter of his life has been spent in surgery, treatment, in pain, so sick he could not keep his eyes open or hold his head up. His parents were not allowed to be by his side at the same time.”
Dealing with both a pandemic and a seriously ill child is awful enough, but then being trapped because of the mayhem created by riots is particularly cruel.
Cruelty and disregard for others seems to be the theme of so-called “protests” which claim to advocate for the downtrodden, marginalized and victimized, but in reality lead to cities burning.
The most recent Chicago looting ostensibly broke out because of a police shooting Sunday, but reports of people stuffing merchandise into U-Hauls in organized, coordinated efforts gave lie to that excuse.
These opportunistic looters who engage in this activity while city leaders mostly stand idly by don’t care who or what they damage, which is why they had no problem breaking windows out of a charity that houses families with sick children.
Buell’s family has been living every parent’s worst nightmare and simply wanted to make the the boy’s birthday a special occasion, but the rioters nearly kept that from happening.
Thankfully, Moore told the Joliet-based Herald-News that Owen’s doctor ended up giving him a “day pass,” meaning he was able to go home Monday and celebrate with his family before returning to the hospital the next morning to be officially discharged.
“He got his little party right before the storm blew through,” Moore said. “Better late than never.”
Although the boy eventually did make it home to his birthday celebration and huge stuffed llama — a gift his great-grandmother shipped to his house — the day was fraught with unnecessary hardship and worry.
What’s truly unfair is that the looters who stole merchandise and damaged property will be able to move on with their lives with relative ease (unless threats from officials actually materialize), but Buell will be back at the hospital for another round of chemotherapy and a second stem cell transplant to treat his cancer.
These cowards who fill city streets to enjoy the spoils of rioting justified by their radical agenda seem especially repulsive when compared to little Owen Buell, who is courageously battling cancer in the fight for his life.
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