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Caleb Gulizia's Story

On Oct. 2, 2006, a month after Caleb turned four years old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “The radiologist walked into the room and had tears rolling down her face and said, ‘you need to get him to Children’s immediately, he has an extremely large tumor in the middle of his brain’,” said Donna Gulizia.

After this, doctors prepared Caleb’s parents for the worst . . . telling them that he may only live for the next eight weeks. Over the next month, Caleb had seven surgeries, including one where his skull was fractured because it was about as frail as that of a newborn child. He had his first surgery on Oct. 4, his second brain surgery was a shunt placement on Oct. 12, his third brain surgery was another craniotomy on Oct. 26. Also, that month, he had to have a tooth pulled, a port placed in his chest and a hernia repaired. All in less than 30 days.

Thankfully, Caleb made it through each surgery, and the tumor was removed. However, Caleb’s fight was not over. Those surgeries had a lasting effect on him. Caleb received six weeks of daily radiation treatments along with 18 months of chemotherapy. For a while, because of his treatments, he was having five to six mini strokes a day. One major stroke left him 100 percent paralyzed on the right side, unable to walk, talk, eat, most of the basic things we take for granted every day.

After his surgeries, Caleb spent three years going to Madonna in Lincoln every day for intense therapy, relearning to talk, eat and more. Due to these strokes, his legs have become deformed as the bones have rotated in his legs and feet to a point that reconstructive surgery is the only way to fix them. In 2015, Caleb had a surgery to fix his feet as the pain became unbearable. After the surgery, he developed a staph infection in one of his feet which kept him off his feet for nearly six months. He was just recently taken off the antibiotics, but now the pain in his knees is so painful that he can barely stand up without being in tears.

On Dec. 1, 2016, Caleb will have knee surgery…his 30th surgery in his lifetime. “He has been through so much in the past 10 years, and I thank God every day for letting me keep him for one more day, but I am also praying for him to relieve some of this pain. Just to give him a break. Caleb loves his family, trains (probably more than his family), his friends, the Huskers and just talking to anyone who will listen. He is a 6-year-old boy in a 14-year old’s body. Through everything he has had a smile on his face and has the most contagious laugh I have ever heard,” writes his mother, Donna. Caleb is cancer free for 10 years, but he will live with the side effects of this disease for the rest of his life. “He deserves the world and that is what I will make sure he gets.” said Donna.

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