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September 15th, 2015

Incredible Hulk Helps Incredible Young Mayo Clinic Cancer Patient

By In the Loop

During his recovery time, Connor Weckworth pretended to be the Incredible Hulk. To mark the end of the proton beam treatments, The Incredible Hulk and his super hero friends helped Connor ring the bell. If 6-year-old Connor Weckworth had a superpower, it would be his will to live, according to his mom, April O'Connor. After emergency brain tumor surgery at the Saint Marys Campus of Mayo Clinic Hospital this past summer, Connor woke up and simply "asked for a sandwich," she says. "Two days later, he was pulling himself out of bed. He just has an unbelievable will to live."

Things could have been very different. Due to the location of Connor's tumor, his doctors warned the family that among other things, he may not be able to walk or talk when he woke up. Or he might be "extremely angry" or have other major changes to his personality. "But none of that happened," April says.

Connor WeckwortIt was a super outcome for a super-hero-loving boy who April says spent much of his recovery time at Mayo pretending to be the Incredible Hulk. Which makes it altogether fitting that last week, to mark the end of Connor's proton beam therapy treatment, he got " a round of applause from family, Mayo Clinic staff, and four special super heroes," as Rochester's KTTC-TV reports. The Incredible Hulk himself was there to help as Connor took a turn at ringing the bell to signify his last day of treatment.

April teamed up with Nancy Heinzelman, patient experience coordinator, to super-size the event for young Connor. "I was talking to Nancy and telling her that I was trying to get my brother to dress up like the Incredible Hulk for Connor's bell-ringing," April says. After learning that wasn't going to happen, "Nancy said, 'I may have you covered. Just let me work on it.'"

Nancy tells us she called local costume shops. "But nobody had an Incredible Hulk costume," she says. Then she remembered the superhero window washers who had recently come to the Mayo Clinic Children's Center. "I found that story online and saw they had the Incredible Hulk," she says. She contacted the window washing company, and after telling them about Connor, she had herself an Incredible Hulk. And more.

Nancy says being there to see the look on Connor's face when he saw his favorite superhero waiting to help him ring the bell made it all worthwhile. "It was the same kind of excitement you feel on Christmas morning," she says. "I just knew the joy it would bring to him and his family."

And she was right. "They made me cry," April says of Nancy and everyone who helped make the guest appearance happen for Connor. "I'd stayed pretty strong through this whole thing by just doing whatever Connor needed me to do. But they made me cry."

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Tags: Mayo Clinic Children's Center, Nancy Heinzelman, Patient Stories, Proton Beam

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