When you meet Wyatt Cottrell, the first thing you notice is his energy—whether it’s playing hide-and-seek, riding his tricycle or roaming the family’s 30 acres of land with his grandfather, Wyatt is a blur of motion and near-constant chatter.
This may not seem unusual to anyone who has spent time around a 3-year-old boy, but Wyatt wasn’t always this way.
Wyatt has not had a typical childhood. He was diagnosed in January 2015 with rhabdomyosarcoma in his leg and began a treatment regime at Brenner Children’s that would last until April 2016. Today, he is in remission. “When he rang the bell (signifying he was cancer-free), it was very meaningful,” says Autumn Cottrell, his mother. “The nurses from our inpatient stay wanted us to bring him by so they could see him. ... Dr. (Tom) McLean stayed and took pictures with us, and all of his doctors came by and gave him hugs and high fives.”
Inspired to Give
Wyatt’s courage and the compassion and caring shown by the staff at Brenner Children’s inspired his great-grandmother, Betty Burwell, to make a charitable gift to the hospital.
“I felt that with all that he’d been through and all that he’d been given—all the help he had—it was time that the Brenner staff were honored and acknowledged for everything they had done for him,” Betty says.
After seeing how Wyatt’s time in Brenner Children’s affected not only his parents but also his grandparents and other family members, Betty decided that she wanted to help pediatric cancer patients and their families. She saw that the more comfortable the child is and the more comfortable the parents are, the better everyone can bear the time spent in the hospital.
“It was very difficult, seeing a child go through cancer,” says Betty. “I know how caring the medical people and other people involved with these children are, and I’m grateful.”
“If Brenner hadn’t been there, I don’t know where we would have taken him,” says Autumn. “We could have ended up in another state, far away from family. … It was really helpful to be close.”
Juggling Wyatt’s treatment and the needs of his older brother, Syiles, required a lot of family support. Jim Cottrell, Wyatt’s grandfather was unfamiliar with Brenner Children’s before Wyatt started receiving treatment there but quickly learned his way around. He considers it a blessing to have such a comprehensive pediatric facility within driving distance.
“I think the staff has done an incredible job not only on the medical side of things but on the emotional side as well,” says Jim.
The Cottrells had a long road and appreciated the amenities and services Brenner Children’s offers to help patients and their families make the best of such a situation. Wyatt especially enjoyed the playroom, tricycles, Child Life specialists, and volunteers who did arts and crafts with him and other pediatric patients.
‘It’s a Great Thing’
Today, Wyatt zooms from one activity to another and looks forward to going to preschool where he can be around other children, something he could not do while undergoing chemotherapy. For his family, his energy and enthusiasm are something to delight in and never take for granted.
“I’d like (Brenner Children’s staff) to know how thankful we are for them listening to us and letting us choose what we did and didn’t do for Wyatt’s health, for taking the time to get to know him and for saving his life,” says Autumn. “It’s a great thing, what they do every day.”