Gabe Carranza walked into the lobby on the 16th floor of the Mayo Building. It was a walk he'd made more times than he could count over the past three years and 70 days. But this walk was different. It marked the end of Gabe's treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The lobby was filled with family, friends and members of Gabe's care team, all on hand to cheer on the 9-year-old as he rang a bell to signify the end of this part of his story. "I don't know how to describe it really," he tells KAAL-TV. "A lot was going through my mind."
Gabe was the first to ring the bell, a gift he and his family had recently donated. He'd heard about "some fellow warrior friends who were able to ring the bell and celebrate being done with radiation," Gabe's mom, Andrea Carranza, tells us. Gabe thought all kids having cancer treatment — not just those receiving radiation — should have a bell to ring. So he asked his oncologist, Vilmarie Rodriguez, M.D., if he could donate one to the place he'd spent so much time: Mayo's Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Rodriguez's response? "Wonderful idea!" Other families with children facing cancer told the Carranzas they liked the idea, too.
So the Carranzas searched for just the right bell for the job, landing on a white cowbell with a handle — "perfect for all the hand sizes," Andrea tells us. They placed a gold sticker on each side, one reading "Warrior," the other, "Survivor." "We decided to do both because every kid deserves to ring that bell," Andrea says. "They've fought hard, regardless of their outcome."
The Carranzas know all too well that not all outcomes lead to celebrations. "Gabe had an aunt who fought the same cancer as him and lost her battle," Andrea says. That reality is reflected in the framed message that sits next to the bell, explaining that it was given "to honor the fighting, remember the resting, and party on with the survivors."
Andrea wasn't surprised when her "special little boy with a very big heart" came up with the idea of donating the bell. Her son has a "passion to help others during their hard times," she says. That's something his care team has seen as well. "Gabe is a wonderful kid," Dr. Rodriguez tells us, "and has a wonderful family behind him. We could not provide the care we do without the love, attention and care our families devote to these kids."
For Andrea, the love, attention and care of people like Dr. Rodriguez are just as essential. "You need to find the oncologist who not only has the knowledge and well-qualified team, but more importantly has the drive, the passion and the heart to get the job done," Andrea says. "Dr. Rodriguez was all of this and more to us. She didn't just treat and care for Gabe. She treated our family, and for that she is forever loved."
You can read about another special person in Gabe's life — pharmacy tech and joke buddy Adam Savage — here. Then show us some love by leaving a comment below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.