Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson sent Hudson Gazsi a special message to ‘keep pushing through’.
Hudson Gazsi was having a rough day.
The 5-year-old Plymouth, Mich., resident had recently been diagnosed with pre-B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer that affects immature white blood cells and the bone marrow that makes them.
His belly hurt, and steroids had dampened his typically exuberant mood.
But then a message came through his mom's phone. It was from the mother of Aidan Hutchinson, who'd been a standout defensive end at the University of Michigan and was now about to play in his first game for the Detroit Lions.
"What's going on, Hudson, it's Aidan Hutchinson here. I'm super excited, man. I just got to Ford Field," the football star said from a vertical video he'd filmed in the hallways of the stadium. "I'm really ready for this game right now. I just want to tell you: Keep pushing through, man. I know our moms have been talking a little bit, and I know I'm gonna meet you here pretty soon."
"But in the meantime, keep pushing through," Hutchinson continued. "Keep hanging in there. I know you're going through it right now. Hopefully you find a little motivation in watching our game on Sunday. Keep rooting for me. Put on that little eye black in support of me. I'm going to have you on my wrist, on my game tape in a couple of hours, and it's going to be a really good time. I can't wait to meet you, man. Go Lions."
Hudson beamed as his two older brothers freaked out.
"Dude, do you know how cool this is? You don't understand how cool you are right now," they said.
"I've always been cool," Hudson said.
Time to go to Mott
The video message was particularly cool because Hudson Gazsi and his family are Detroit Lions superfans.
Hudson has a Lions pillow and blanket set. He spent his first birthday at a Lions tailgate. Even when the team isn't doing very well, the Gazsis are cheering them on.
As awful as the circumstances are, it's so comforting knowing we're in the best place and having the best care.Emily Gazsi
And Hudson needed someone to return the favor this time. The past few weeks had been tough. He'd rolled his ankle riding his Razr scooter, developed a fever and endured severe pain that over-the-counter medications weren't fixing. The providers at two urgent cares had sent him home with no other remedies.
When his fever reached 103 degrees and he could no longer walk, his mom, Emily, decided to up the ante.
"It was time to go to Mott," she said.
The providers at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children's Hospital took Hudson's case seriously, running multiple tests. The oncology team thought it might be helpful to do a bone marrow biopsy, partly because Hudson's aunt Katie had had leukemia as a child.
They were right. Hudson's leukemia was in such early stages that blood tests hadn't been able to detect it, but there were signs of cancer in his bone marrow.
Emily was relieved.
"I knew there was something wrong," she said. "I didn't think it was leukemia, but I knew there was something deeper. Mott really was on top of everything. As awful as the circumstances are, it's so comforting knowing we're in the best place and having the best care."
'You're like Aunt Kate'
Hudson is still at the beginning of his cancer treatment. How his leukemia reacts to the initial month of chemotherapy will dictate his additional therapy going forward. But his young age and early diagnosis are both good factors in predicting a positive outcome.
"Hudson gets dark sometimes," Emily said. "As a 5-year-old, he associates cancer with death. But I've used my sister-in-law as an example. When she was treated at Mott 30 years ago, she did not have a great prognosis. Now she's the most fit, healthy example of life and positivity that you will ever meet."
Detroit Lions rookie Aidan Hutchinson recorded a pre-game video for 5-year-old Hudson Gazsi.
"I've said to Hudson, 'Aunt Kate is crushing it,'" Emily recalled. "She's strong, and she's doing so well. You're like Aunt Kate.'"
And Hudson has a supportive team around him to help him get through the challenges. One of the Gazsis' neighbors has made T-shirts that read "Huddy Buddy Strong," which his brothers and their football teams have worn. The shirts are blue with a white font that resembles Detroit Lions merchandise.
Emily hopes that her children will get to meet Aidan Hutchinson at some point. (Hudson's immunocompromised status due to chemotherapy makes that difficult at the moment.) But she's already grateful enough that friends of friends connected them. After his record-setting three sacks as a rookie, Hutchinson even dedicated the victory to Hudson.
"I'm just happy to have good games to spread causes to kids like that," Hutchinson said, according to ESPN.
"We can cure many types of childhood cancer, but there are still many children and young adults fighting for their lives," said Lynn Slagle, N.P., Hudson's oncology nurse practitioner. "Bringing more attention to childhood cancer in order to improve funding and outcomes is so appreciated. We are grateful for individuals like Aidan Hutchinson who can make a little boy and his family smile during such a difficult time."
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