Two-year-old Ethan Peters howls with indignation as his big sister Sheridan confiscates his green marker and uses it to colour her picture. His shrieks don’t result in the return of the coveted marker, so Ethan whacks four-year-old Sheridan on the back – twice, hard.
Sheridan is unperturbed, but the minor kitchen altercation brings a smile to mom Lori’s face.
He’s normal, she says with a grin. It’s a miracle.
That miracle is why Lori Peters and Ethan are the stars of a commercial for the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital Foundation currently airing on major television networks.
“Anything they ask, I say yes,” Lori said. “I don’t even ask what it is. I just say, ‘Whatever you want.’ ”
Indeed, Ethan’s cherubic face also graces postcards, brochures, flyers and the website advertising the hospital’s fundraising lottery and other events.
“It’s our way of giving back to the hospital,” father Jason said.
The fact Ethan is alive at all is due to the life-saving treatment he received at the hospital during the first eight months of his life, when he lived there in complete isolation, cut off from the world – and all skin-to-skin touch – because of a rare genetic condition that meant he had no immune system to fight off infection. His distraught parents knew exactly how deadly severe combined immunodeficiency could be. Diagnosed too late, it had claimed the life of Ethan’s older sister, Brooklyn, who died at five months of age in 2002 after she contracted what seemed to be a common cold.
But Ethan’s eight months in protective isolation and the bone marrow transplant he received in September 2005 saved his life, and today he’s as mischievous and demanding and delightful as any two-year-old.
He goes to day care, plays hide-and-seek with Sheridan and his oldest sister, Madison, 9. He races to be the first one to answer the phone and rushes to his mother for a kiss and a cuddle after banging his elbow on the toybox.
Taping the television commercial took two days in August, Lori said, which they spent in Toronto. In the commercial, a gloved and masked Lori holds a tiny infant that she’s unable to touch, just as she was unable to touch her own baby.
For the first eight months of his life, Ethan saw his sisters only by videophone, Jason Peters said. He could see his parents’ eyes above their masks, and their full faces only through the glass wall that separated his life from the rest of the world. After a bone marrow transplant, the first time he saw his mother’s smile he was startled, because he had never seen her without a mask.
“You can’t feel his skin, you can’t kiss him. It was really hard,” Lori says in the voice-over for the commercial. “A bone marrow transplant saved his life. And now we’re catching up on all the hugs and kisses that we missed.”
The commercial ends with Ethan rushing into his mother’s arms and Lori squishing his chubby cheek with a kiss.
Jason and Lori said they are excitedly looking forward to meeting the young German woman who donated the bone marrow that saved their son’s life.
In September, around the time the two-year donor and recipient confidentiality period ended, she sent Ethan a card, addressed to, “Dear little fellow.” The hospital blocked out any identifying information, but now that the Peters have sent a letter back, the identities of donor and recipient can be revealed. They are hoping it will be soon.
“Nearly two years passed by since I got the news that my bone marrow matches with somebody else’s,” the woman wrote.
“At that moment I felt very happy that I (would) get the chance to help somebody, and for me there has never been a moment I felt unsure about it. I am often thinking of you and pray that everything is still okay.
“Maybe when you are older you are interested to meet me. Although I don’t know you, you will always be in my heart and mind.”
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