The San Antonio Fire Department threw a birthday party for a 5-year-old boy who may not have another birthday.
KENS 5 has been following River Laurence and his fight against a rare cancer called neuroblastoma. In 2014, doctors diagnosed River with the cancer and found a large tumor in his abdomen. He’s since undergone multiple chemotherapy treatments and other forms of medical care.
River has been seeking treatment in New York. Recently, when he returned to Texas, he got several infections. He ended up at the hospital and that's where SAFD Chief Charles Hood visited him.
"He's one of the brightest 5-year-old's I've ever seen in my life, and I'm a father of four,” Chief Hood said. “It really struck a chord with me. We built a relationship.”
Chief Hood said that after hearing about Rivers’s fight, the department wanted to throw River a birthday party. The party was held at fire station one. Firefighters not only decorated the station, but also bought River a cake and multiple presents. They also let him spray water with the hose and check out the fire equipment.
River's mother said that while her son appears to be healthy on the outside, his health is failing. She said that there aren't many treatment options available anymore.
"It's not like one organ or system is failing, but, collectively, his body is failing him,” Joscelyn said. “All these secondary issues we've had, the inside does not always match the outside."
River has to take methadone three times a day to treat his pain.
"We're all so used to hearing it with addicts, but he's at the point now where nothing else really works for him," said Joscelyn, who noted that River’s time spent with the SAFD and with the Converse Fire Department helps him in his fight.
Nearly two years ago, Converse firefighters met River at a blood drive. River often visits them to help wash their trucks or just to hang out. Joscelyn said that River wants to be a firefighter.
"This whole firefighter thing started with Converse. It really did. So, that's like his home base," Joscelyn explained.
"It was great to see him after every single treatment. Every setback that he had, he always came back. He was always ready to come back for more," Converse firefighter Jose Perez said.
"He's not just a kid. He's a brother. He's family," Converse firefighter Alex Reyna said.
In November 2016, the City of Converse officially named a day after River. The fire department also named him an honorary firefighter for his bravery and courage.
SAFD said that, for childhood cancer awareness month in September, firefighters will be recognizing River and other children fighting cancer.