A few weeks ago, I sat down at my computer to write a story about DJ. We had just been on a call with his family a week earlier, watching him grin and giggle at the camera, despite the fact that he was still recovering from a recent surgery. That’s basically DJ in a nutshell. All smiles and happiness in the face of tremendous adversity, including the diagnosis of 13 rare medical conditions. His life: a revolving door between the highest of highs and lowest of lows.
Though he only recently turned three years old, DJ has recovered from more than 30 surgeries — nearly one for every month of his life. The pressure and stress on the family have been overwhelming, but all of us at Chive Charities were grateful to hear their story and thrilled to answer their call for help.
Because of our dedicated monthly donors, we were able to purchase a wheelchair-accessible van for DJ and his family. Better yet, we witnessed the live delivery while on a video call with the family those few short weeks ago. DJ’s smile says it all.
It was truly one of the most special moments in my life, and having a front-row seat to the life-changing impact of their grant item was something that’s difficult to express here. Unfortunately, my happiness was short-lived.
A week later, I opened my computer, logged onto Facebook, and was immediately greeted with an image of that sweet boy looking so different from the last time I saw him. Instead of smiling at the camera and laughing at his mom’s tickles, DJ lay motionless in a hospital bed, covered with blankets and clinging onto life.
This was the view into his 3rd birthday, so different from the celebration his family had planned. Seeing DJ in this state was truly one of the worst moments and having a front-row seat to the fragility of life that’s so common for rare medical families was sobering, emotional, and heartwrenching. It was like my own revolving door, a quick glimpse at a moment of peace before the chaos on the other side.
How frequently these families experience that change and how ill-equipped I was to handle it. For DJ and his mom, it was making it through 31 successful surgeries...then nearly losing him to one complication. A revolving door.
Frankly, after seeing what DJ was going through, I didn’t want to write his story — at least not this new version where everything wasn’t sunshine and rainbows and where a perfect ending wasn’t guaranteed. I wanted to package him up, share him with this community, and tie it together with a ribbon and bow. But that’s not how life goes for these families. It can’t always work out that way.
Then, it hit me. DJ is the embodiment of our mission at Chive Charities. Here’s a 3-year-old boy with 13 rare medical conditions, fighting for his life and doing everything in his power to keep going. Can you think of a bigger underdog than that? In his greatest time of need, our community said, “You’re not alone. We’re with you.” In his greatest time of need, our community donated, and prayed, and mailed cards, and sent good vibes, and did everything possible to let him know that he was supported.
How could I not tell that story?
It should come as no surprise, then, that with our community rallied behind him, DJ rallied, too. From a ventilator and heavy sedation to a bright-eyed boy with the hint of a smile on his face. While he’s not fully out of the woods quite yet, he is finally home and out of the hospital. This was him a few days after the story launched:
And this is him now:
All smiles and happiness in the face of tremendous adversity. Typical DJ.
No, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. A perfect ending can’t be guaranteed. But when you’re on the wrong side of the revolving door, knowing someone is there for you on the other end can make all the difference. That’s what championing the underdog is all about.
DJ isn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. In eight years, more than 400 underdogs have asked for prayers, and good vibes, and community support. And more than 400 times, Chive Charities donors have answered. Are you one of them? Become a monthly member and join our mission to make the world 10% happier. Like DJ taught us, it won’t always be easy. But it will always be worth it. Donate HERE.