In 2005, Luke Stroud of Independence, Ky., was like any other active, sports loving nine-year-old boy. This is why his mother, Tammy Nalley Stroud, the daughter of the late Dale and Sue Nalley of Pursley and sister of Dale Nalley II who resides in New Martinsville Care and Rehabilitation, did not think anything of a pain that Luke began having in his hip. But when the pain didn't subside after two weeks, Tammy decided to take Luke to his pediatrician, who sent Luke on to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for x-rays. Within hours, the orthopedic surgeon called and told Tammy that something unusual was found on the film. Luke was scheduled for a biopsy two days later, just two days before Christmas 2005.
Following the surgery, the surgeon called and said that the biopsy had confirmed their suspicions: Luke had Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH). The rare blood cell disease was found on Luke's hip, clavicle, and spine. The surgeon told Tammy that they had been in contact with a hematologist at the Children's Hospital who specialized in the disease. An appointment was scheduled for Luke to begin his treatment, which would include a series of steroids and chemotherapy, as well as various medications that Tammy would administer at home. These chemo injections were administered once a week for three months, with testing done at the end to check the process.
At the conclusion of the first round of chemotherapy in April 2006, Luke was in remission. He was scheduled for follow-up testing six months later in October 2006. Tammy said that at this time, she felt as if they had "cleared a huge hurdle."
Luke Stroud meets with Michael Jordan, part of his Make-A-Wish trip to Las Vegas in March and April. Stroud has been battling Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), a rare blood cell disease, since 2005. He is currently in remission.
Unfortunately, within six weeks of being told he was in remission, Luke began experiencing similar pains; needless to say, Luke's hematologist was shocked when Tammy called to let him know what was happening. Luke was sent back for testing and, unbelievably, the LCH had come back on Luke's spine, but in a different location. Another round of chemotheraphy was begun, with the same type and the same amounts as previously. Over the next five years, Luke would continue with this pattern of treatment, remission, testing, and recurrence. Tammy says that over these five years, Luke's body would react badly with the chemotherapy. Even though he did not experience the well-known, infamous symptoms of the usual nausea and hair loss, he did experience neurological symptoms. He could not stand or walk without losing his balance. Over this period of time, doctors tried four kinds of chemotherapy and, in an attempt to find something that would make the remission hold, Luke also endured eight surgeries. He had two PICC lines inserted and removed, two PORT lines inserted, and two emergency surgeries to have the PORT lines removed when they failed to work.
Throughout this battle, Luke's nurse care manager at the Children's Hospital contacted his social worker at the hospital and let her know about everything Luke was going through. In turn, the social worker contacted the Make-A-Wish foundation. A representative then contacted Tammy and asked her if she felt Luke would enjoy having a wish granted. Tammy says of the call, "My response was, of course, 'Absolutely!!'"
The Make-A-Wish representative came to meet with Luke, his mom, and sister to talk to Luke about what he would wish for if he could have anything he wanted. Being a huge sports fan, Luke's first wish was to meet with the Georgia Bulldogs football team. Unfortunately, at the time, Luke was "grounded" because he was in the middle of a chemotherapy treatment. Because of this, he could not travel and nearly a year passed by, with Luke feeling as if his wish would never be granted.
In May 2010, LCH was found again, this time on Luke's skull. A new chemotherapy called 2CDA was used, which required Luke to be admitted to the hospital once a month for five to seven days for chemotherapy injections every day. In November 2010, after seven months of the most intense chemotherapy treatments to date, Luke was once again in remission and was beginning to feel better. He was actually getting stronger and, after missing 72 days of his freshman year, his mother says, "We were finally turning the corner." Tammy says of this accomplishment, "I still wake up every day with a certain feeling of dread. I wait for the next all too familiar 'pain'. I can tell you almost to the day how long he has been in remission. He's an amazing kid. He and his sister, Natalie, are best friends. She has been and remains his biggest supporter."
In January, a Make-A-Wish representative called Tammy and asked her if they had plans for March 29 through April 2 because a representative from the Michael Jordan Foundation had contacted them to let them know that Luke had been chosen as the Make-A-Wish child to meet Michael Jordan. Tammy says that her kids were still in school at the time, but she knew she could make arrangements because the kids' spring break began April 2.
After a series of phone calls, paper work, and what Tammy describes as a feeling of "wow," Luke, Tammy, and Natalie flew to Las Vegas on March 29 to attend the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational golf event. They also attended a red carpet event, a cocktail party, a Viva Elvis Circque du Soleil show, and they had guest passes to The Mob Museum. Besides this, they were also able to stay in a two-bedroom penthouse sky suite at the Aria Resort and Casino. Tammy, a 1982 graduate of Sistersville High School, says that when the three arrived at their room at the Aria, there were three gift bags. Each one was filled with four polo shirts, hoodies, t-shirts, wind breakers, all with the Aria emblem and the Michael Jordan logo. Jordan gave Luke a pair of Air Nike tennis shoes that had not been released yet; Tammy and Natalie both received Nike tennis shoes as well.
Luke, Tammy, and Natalie had VIP passes to attend the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational golf tournament where all three of them had the opportunity to sit down with Jordan in a private room and talk with him one-on-one. Luke had some books written by Jordan, which he autographed. Tammy says that later they went to the putting green "where Michael Jordan gave Luke putting tips and Luke sank his first putt ever!" Tammy says, "I have to add that there were probably 300 people watching from the VIP stands!"
Luke also had the opportunity to meet with countless celebrities, including Aaron Rodgers, Ken Griffey, Jr., Wayne Gretzky, Cedric the Entertainer, Brandi Chastain, and Ne-Yo. "Unbelievable doesn't begin to describe it," Tammy says of the trip. When asked what his favorite part of the trip was, Luke quickly responds, "All of it. . . there were so many incredible things, there's no way I could pick one thing."
Tammy says, "I didn't think I'd be able to pin him down to one specific time or event, it was four days of non-stop excitement and unforgettable events and people."
Tammy says that after talking with Jordan's manager, who she describes as "a very sweet lady named Estee," she found out that Jordan had actually picked Luke as his wish child in 2011, but found out that Luke could not travel because of his chemotherapy treatments and all of his complications. Estee told Tammy that Jordan personally put Luke at the top of his list to have his wish granted as soon as he was able to travel.
"Jordan is a Make-A-Wish Ambassador and donated $100,000 to Make-A-Wish to raise funds to grant more wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses such as Luke's," said Stroud. "While we were in Las Vegas, he took time out of his schedule to make sure we didn't need anything and that if we did, it was given attention immediately."
Tammy says of the experience, "I've always been a fan, but now I'm also an admirer."