“The only touchdown was from me.”
Improbable words from 9-year-old Oni Davenport.
Oni was diagnosed on February 11, 2015, with a brain tumor. However, by September he scored a touchdown for his team, the Westfield Football League’s Northwestern Wildcats. And he even made the all-star team.
A student at Oak Trace Elementary, this astute young man has a spirit and resiliency which belies what he’s been through. Oni’s journey started with severe headaches in January, followed by a referral to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health by his family physician, Andrew McLaren, M.D. Then came the devastating diagnosis by Riley Neurologist Sarah Delima, M.D.: Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA), a rare slow growing tumor.
“It was the worst call of my life,” said Oni’s mother, Kim. Riley Pediatric Neurosurgeon Jodi Smith, M.D., was able to remove a third of the walnut-sized tumor which was wrapped around Oni’s carotid artery and had crushed his optic nerve. The damage caused Oni to lose much of the vision in his right eye.
They are treating the remaining tumor with chemotherapy — 70 weeks of it. “It’s a three to four-hour process each treatment,” said Kim. Working with a team of specialists including Riley Pediatric Oncologist Kamnesh Pradhan, M.D., and nurse practitioner Jayne Vonbergen, Oni has a MRI every two months. The Child Life specialists at Riley have been instrumental working through his fears and anxiety. Still, it’s a long haul for this young man.
Balancing a normal active fourth grade life with a long-term treatment regimen can take its toll. “I threw up at school today,” he said matter-of-factly. And in the next breath announced that touchdown at his last football game.
During this trying time, Oni has felt the full embrace of his community. He was co-chair of the Westfield-Sheridan Relay for Life, threw out the first pitch at a Westfield High School ballgame, and participated in the Westfield Family Fun Run benefiting the Emily Yott Foundation.
Oni still has quite a few challenges ahead, but as his father Ken states: “We thank God we’re at Riley. We have an incredible medical team.” Oni’s spirit and sense of humor are infectious—and inspiring to others. “He’s brought our entire community together in prayer in response to his illness,” said Ken.
It’s a response that seems especially appropriate for this special boy with a unique name.
The African meaning of “Oni” is “prayed for.”