At age three, Margate's Danny Feltwell has already spent more time in a hospital than most of us will in a lifetime.
The Margate boy was diagnosed with an aggressive non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in December 2010, and spent almost a full year hospitalized because of complications from chemotherapy, said aunt Natalie Feltwell Maga, also of Margate.
Danny has been home almost three months, but still must make regular trips to the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., for treatment of the cancer of the lymphatic system, Maga said. Some weeks he goes every day.
Dad D.J. Feltwell, of Margate, is a single parent and union electrician. He left work the day he took Danny to the hospital a year ago in November, he said, thinking his son had pneumonia. Instead doctors found a tumor in his chest, which restricted his breathing.
Feltwell hasn't been back to work since, he said, but his union has been supportive, and has continued to provide his health insurance.
Feltwell lived at the hospital in Wilmington while his son was there, fighting various types of infections and conditions related to the chemotherapy, including the inability to digest food for a time.
"He was in the hospital 259 days and nights. I never left. I stayed in Danny's room. The hospital was wonderful that way," Feltwell said. "For five months I slept and ate and showered in his room."
He also researched the condition, so he could make the best decisions possible to save his son, Feltwell said.
"I needed to learn," Feltwell said. "There's nothing I can do but get him the treatment he needs."
Now Danny is healthy enough to live at home, but is taking 11 different types of chemotherapy compounds and is in a clinical study. He will be on 85-day chemotherapy cycles from now through April 2013, his dad said. The aggressive course is necessary for his type of cancer, T-cell acute lyphoblastic lymphoma.
In between courses of medicine, when he has enough white blood cells to fight potential infections, his dad takes him to the playground or out to an event, like the 18th Annual Robert's Place Polar Bear Plunge on the beach in Margate on Jan. 1. Robert's Place donated all proceeds of its T-shirt and sweatshirt sales to Danny this year.
There are days when Feltwell is overwhelmed with emotion and worry for his son, but "when I have a bad day and personally at a low point, I look at Danny. He's a beautiful little boy so full of life. And my anguish goes away."
Family members and friends are holding a fundraiser Saturday at the Margate Log Cabin, to raise money to help Danny and his dad handle some of the bills related to co-pays and deductibles, and travel expenses.
D.J. Feltwell said he gets a lot of help from his two sisters, Maga, a dental assistant for Dr. George Novasack, of Somers Point; and Debbie Grabbe, of Washington Township; and from his father and step-mother, Dan Feltwell and Millie Corgliano, of Margate. The elder Dan Feltwell is a Margate City crossing guard stationed near the Eugene A. Tighe School.
To follow Danny's progress go to www.CaringBridge.org/visit/danieltimothyfeltwell. Donations may be sent c/o Natalie Maga, 119 A North Harding, Margate, NJ 08402. Make checks payable to "A Day for Danny."
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:
If You Go
"A Day for Danny" beef and beer fundraising benefit, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Margate Log Cabin, 600 N. Jerome Ave., Margate. Tickets are $25 and can be
purchased at the door, by emailing ADayForDanny@gmail.com, or by calling Natalie Feltwell Maga at 609-432-6178.