INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – When a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, the entire family’s life stops in its tracks to focus on getting that child better. But so often, in the wings, are siblings who sacrifice so much themselves and often go unnoticed. Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health is trying to change that one “hero sibling” at a time.
From the screen light of his iPad, it isn’t hard to see Chad Justus doesn’t feel well.
“It means more to him than I don’t think anybody will ever know,” said Chad’s mom, Kimberly.
Battling Myelodysplastic Syndrome and cancer, Chad was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. His provider, his hero, came in an unlikely form.
“I gave him my bone marrow,” said Chad’s sister, Danielle.
Danielle underwent a painful procedure to give Chad a life-saving donation.
“Because I love him,” said Danielle.
It’s been a gift to not only Chad, but their mom Kimberly, who says this whole experience has opened her eyes to those hurting, even more than her son.
“The whole thing was devastating, but I’ve learned something. I’ve learned that there’s more children who are in worse condition than my son. It just breaks my heart,” said Kimberly.
So often, sitting in the shadows of those fighting disease, are siblings like Danielle who are fighting themselves to be seen and appreciated.
“Sometimes the siblings get a little lost in the shuffle because your focus is on your sick child. We want them to know that they’re important too,” said Stephanie Yott, Founder of the Emily Yott Foundation.
It’s the idea behind the Emily Yott Foundation’s “Sibling Hero Award” - rewards for siblings who donate.
Danielle’s thank you came wrapped in a green bag Thursday, but she knows the thank you that matters most came from her brother.
Siblings can pick their prize and Danielle opted for a $500 shopping spree.
Danielle is the third “sibling hero” at Riley, but certainly not the last.