When Sullivan McGuire and his family came to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in January, they thought they knew what to expect. After all, they've had many, many appointments over the past five years, as Sullivan has received treatment for osteosarcoma. And for the most part, this appointment was like all the others. Then Sullivan's pediatric hematologist/oncologist, Carola Arndt , M.D., started talking about football.
"After we got the all-clear that things looked good, Dr. Arndt asked Sully if he liked football," Sullivan's mom, Melissa McGuire, tells us. Dr. Arndt's next question was more pointed, and unexpected. "If I had a ticket to this year's Super Bowl, would you go?" she asked. "Sully just kind of looked me like, 'Is this a joke?' He wasn't quite sure how to respond because nobody just comes out and asks you that kind of question," Melissa says. But it was no joke. Dr. Arndt produced two tickets to the big game and handed them to Sullivan. (We'll come back to that.)
For Sullivan, the unexpected surprise was not only shocking but also a little ironic. Football is where his medical troubles began.
Back in October 2012, a then 7-year-old Sully fell while playing football with his brothers. "He started to limp, and of course like any good mom, I just told him to brush it off," Melissa says. "But two weeks later he was still limping, so we took him in for an X-ray." The results showed that Sully had broken his left femur and would need to be in a full leg cast for two weeks. But when the cast came off, Sully's leg hadn't healed. An MRI followed, revealing cancer.
Sully was referred to Mayo Clinic, where he came under the care of Dr. Arndt and orthopedic surgeon Peter Rose, M.D. They laid out several treatment options. "One was to do an above-the-knee rotationplasty, and the pros of that outweighed the others," Melissa says.
Sully had the procedure at Mayo in February 2013 and remained cancer-free for the next 12 months. Unfortunately, Sully's cancer has returned on five separate occasions and spread to his lungs.
Through the ups and downs of his treatment, Sully hasn't lost his spirit or positive attitude. That's one of the reasons he was chosen to receive the Super Bowl tickets, donated to Mayo Clinic Children's Center by Hyundai Hope on Wheels, a nonprofit organization that helps support children in their fight against cancer. "It's been an honor and a privilege for him to have been chosen by Mayo Clinic and Hyundai with the journey he's been through," Melissa says.
The experience will begin even before Sully and Melissa make it inside U.S. Bank Stadium. Melissa tells us that Hyundai is hooking them up with a limousine ride to the stadium and a few other perks, including tickets for his family to the Super Bowl Experience and an opportunity to attend this year's NFL Honors awards ceremony on Saturday night. "And then Sunday is just the big game," Melissa says. (Yes, just the big game.)
Asked which team they'll be rooting for, Melissa didn't hesitate. "The Patriots," she tells us. "The Vikings were our A Plan, and the Patriots are now our B plan." (Ours, too, because, you know, the needs of the patient.)
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