Family of Trevor Howard struggles with son's illness

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:58 PM

The intense natural light illuminated posters on the wall, stacks of DVD movies, a PlayStation, Xbox and videogame monitor.


Nothing out of the norm, it seems, until the sunlight glanced off a metallic IV pole with a thin tube dripping morphine into Trevor's tiny body.


This is not Trevor's room. That room is back in the family's home off Mercury Drive in Grand Haven Township.


This is a ninth-floor room at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, where 8-year-old Trevor will likely take his last breath in the coming days. He is in hospice care here after leukemia resurfaced in his bloodstream about eight weeks ago.


On Aug. 4, doctors gave him two weeks to live. If they are right, the clock is ticking down to a day no one wants to endure.


Trevor sits in his hospital bed, cradling a large stuffed dog named “Bear.” Next to him is a stuffed python, one of his favorites, and to his left is a trio of tan stuffed bears.


“I'm good,” says Trevor when asked how he is doing. He rubs his eyes. The nurse has just given him some medication that makes him tired. But he doesn't want to sleep. He doesn't want to miss any moments.


Does he know that he is dying?


His parents haven't told him. They don't know how an 8-year-old would process that information. They're having a hard enough time understanding that statement as adults.


Trevor struggles to keep his lids open.


He talks of his Lego sets (“the Ninja Turtle set is the only one that has stayed together”), his 8th birthday on June 2 and the fun he had at camp just days before it was discovered his cancer had returned — fishing (he caught one), swimming, horseback riding, bow and arrows, and arts and crafts.


“And I got to climb a 50-foot rock wall,” Trevor said, with as much excitement as a weak voice can muster. “It's not that scary if you don't look down.”


So Trevor looked up, toward the sun, and climbed and climbed until there were no more steps left to take. He had reached the summit.


He wants to go back, he announces from his hospital bed on Thursday. Next year. Camp.


“That's what I'm doing for my next birthday,” he said with the innocent confidence of a child.


The others in the room smile with encouragement, but their hearts weep as dreams collide with bitter realities.


To read more of this story, see today's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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