In four bone marrow transplants and countless other hospitalizations, they’ve put a lot of stuff into little Brennan Simkins.
Everything but negativity.
“He’s just a joy to have around,” said the 10-year-old Augustan’s grandfather, Pat Rice. “He’s so positive. You just can’t get anything negative into him.”
NBC’s Today Show correspondent Jenna Wolfe was likewise swept away by the young leukemia survivor’s indefatigable will. In a Thanksgiving-themed segment that aired Monday spotlighting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Wolfe asked why the boy agreed to a fourth excruciating bone marrow transplant.
“I didn’t want to die,” he told her matter-of-factly.
“This kid,” Wolfe told Today host Matt Lauer, “has more life in him than anyone I know, and it’s such an inspiration to be around him for even a short period of time.”
Those who’ve been around him for 10 years, such as Rice, feel the same. “He’s an inspiration to me, I’ll tell you that,” Rice told us. If Rice doesn’t greet the morning with enthusiasm, he says, “I think about (Brennan), I jump up out of bed and I’m ready to go.”
St. Jude, founded by actor Danny Thomas, has helped raise the survivability of childhood leukemia from the single digits to the 90-percentile. And while NBC’s Lauer questioned the wisdom of using four transplants on one child, Thomas’ daughter, Marlo Thomas, told him her father’s mission was that “We would never give up on any child.”
As one of Brennan’s doctors recalled on Today, Brennan has noticed that in war movies, quitting is not an option.
“To him,” his father Turner Simkins told Today, “there’s quality of life in fighting.”
And the young man is winning: 19 months of remission, though his immune system is battered and his body is struggling to accept the bone marrow transfer.
There’s also inspiration in his fight, and a lesson for others.
“All in all,” Rice says, “I tell you, every day is a gift and every day is a miracle.”
And who wouldn’t be thankful for a miracle?
This family sure is. And they’ve seen more than one.