By Tim Unruh
The Salina Journal
MARQUETTE -- Browynn Birdsong unwrapped a toy fire truck and helped make some noise in Salina on Friday, riding in a full-size fire truck with lights flashing and the siren and horn blaring.
"I think he was excited," said Cory Altman, a firefighter-paramedic at the Salina Fire Department.
But the fun Browynn had Friday will likely pale in comparison to what's in store for the tyke and his family, of Marquette, during the early days of next year.
Thanks to $14,420 donated to the Browynn Birdsong Medical Fund at First Bank Kansas since Dec. 12, the 2-year-old, who is battling brain cancer, his four older siblings and parents Denae and Dustin are destined for Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
"I'm ecstatic and so are Denae and the kids," Dustin Birdsong said Monday morning.
"Between Christmas and Disney World back to back, the kids are really excited," he said.
Donors make wish possible
After learning that the Make-A-Wish Foundation deemed Browynn too young, a local effort was launched to grant a wish.
"I'm pretty blown away by what we've brought in. It was kind of amazing that people from all over stepped up," said Heidi Feyerherm-Smith, of Salina, one of several organizers.
Hogs for the Cause, a group from Lousiana that provides aid to families who have a child with pediatric brain cancer, helped start the drive with a $1,000 donation. A man from Minnesota added $3,000, Feyerherm-Smith said.
Denae's employer, Occupational Performance Company, of Salina, bought the airline tickets and the Disney World passes, and provided Denae many paid days off, Dustin Birdsong said.
Salina Fire Department workers made a monetary donation, but asked that the amount not be specified.
A number of people offered timeshares in the Orlando area, Feyerherm-Smith said, but the timing couldn't be worked out.
"We've already booked them into a Disney resort," she said. "This is going to leave them plenty of money. If they need a rental car or spending money, they can enjoy their time without having to stay on a tight budget."
Leftover for medical expenses
The First Bank Kansas account will be closed when the Birdsongs return home, she said, and any remaining money will be transferred to the Browynn Birdsong Medical Expense Fund at Sunflower Bank, where people have been donating for months to help with medical, travel and living costs.
Harsh reality awaits the Birdsongs when they return. After Browynn underwent surgeries in August and earlier this month at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, to have tumors removed, more began showing up in tests.
Browynn's cancer is called ETANTR, which stands for "embryonal tumor with abundant and true rosettes," Dustin said. It's resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.
"To date, they've never found a drug to treat his tumors," he said. "The outlook is really grim."
Docs to decide on treatment
Without a proven mode of attack, supporters can only hope. Doctors will meet in early January and decide on a group of experimental drugs to use on the cancer.
Browynn's father remains realistic and open about the prognosis.
"More than likely, none of this is gonna work, but it could," Dustin Birdsong said. "At the same time, we'll be providing data for future use, for kids that get diagnosed with the same thing."
At the rate that the cancer is growing, he said, the family might be faced with yet another decision regarding surgery within 60 to 90 days, or they might choose not to subject Browynn to another life-threatening procedure.
"We've talked to doctors around the world. There is currently no drug, no treatment," Dustin Birdsong said. "Our other kids all understand what the end result could be."
For now, Browynn is pain-free and happy, his father said. "He just goes about his day, happy-go-lucky. Because he has less strength in his left leg, his walking is awkward and he falls down sometimes, but it doesn't deter him. He knows everything except that he has cancer. He's not to the point that he understands that, but he knows we're going to Disney World."
(c)2014 The Salina Journal (Salina, Kan.)