11-year-old Alex Belk has spent more time in the hospital this year than most adults have at the age of 77 or 88: 170 nights in 2013 alone.
Diagnosed with leukemia four-and-a-half years ago when he was just 6-years-old, the Bettendorf boy has gone through a relapse, a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy, full body radiation and, just last month, a stem cell transplant.
Monday, after spending another couple weeks at the hospital at the University of Iowa, Alex finally got to come home for Thanksgiving to be with his family for the holidays.
A special trip for a very special kid.
“I was just sitting and waiting the whole time [Monday],” Belk told News 8. “I was excited.”
Thanks to local pediatric cancer support non-profit Tudi’s Tribe, Alex got one of his big wishes fulfilled– a chance to travel home from Iowa City on a helicopter. Founder Brad Baltzel made some calls, got Med-Force on-board and even called in the Marines to be there with a limo waiting for Alex on the runway at the Davenport Municipal Airport.
“When I grow up, I think I’d like to be a Marine,” Belk said.
The helicopter landed on the hospital Monday afternoon, and Alex’s dad, Kenny, wheeled him out for the trip of a lifetime.
“It was exciting and neat to fly in, and see friends and family there waiting for us,” Kenny Belk said. “Just to have him home was exciting.”
Landing at the airport, the crowd below cheered Alex as he made his way to the limo for a well-deserved trip home.
“It’ll be nice to all be here under the same roof [and] hang out,” Alex’s mom, Janel Belk added. “[We'll] put the Christmas tree up before Courtney goes back to college.”
“He’s an inspiration to me, so it’s neat to have him home again,” said his sister, Taylor.
Now, home at last, Alex said he’s simply looking forward to having as traditional a Thanksgiving as possible.
“Just having Thanksgiving with my family and laying low still,” he said.
For more information on Tudi’s Tribe, visit their Facebook page.