dominick-folbrecht-1024Thirteen-year old Dominick was battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia but was ineligible for the bone marrow transplant that he desperately needed. All because he didn’t have a family. He had been diagnosed at the age of 9 but without care-givers in his life to provide the after-care that such a procedure requires, he couldn’t be qualified as a candidate. He had been referred to Jeanelle Folbrecht, a psychologist at the City of Hope in California, where he was being treated. Her job was to assess his mental health in the wake of such a difficult diagnosis and treatments. With no one to give consent to do that evaluation, Jeanelle had to ask around to others who had treated or interacted with Dominick for a picture of his state of mind. When she realized what he was facing and what he really needed, she knew that she had something to offer. “Nobody could tell me he was having symptoms of depression or anxiety,” she says, “and I thought, ‘Wow. This kid doesn’t need a psychologist; this kid needs a mom.’ ”

After seeking information about the ethics and the issues surrounding his status, Jeanelle sought out Dominick for his feelings on the idea of adoption. “I remember after that I asked him, ‘Dominick, did someone come talk to you?’ ” she says. “And he looked at me with this big grin and said, ‘Yes! You’re going to be my mom!’ I think that was the first time I ever saw him grin.”

Shortly after that, Dominick never had to want for company or family during visiting hours at the hospital. Once he was healthy enough to leave the hospital, he went home with his new family where his adjustment to his new life began. Around that same time, a donor was found and back to the hospital they went. While they were understandably nervous about the process, Dominick’s new family “ended up being there 24/7,” says Jeanelle. Soon enough, he was healthy and ready to jump back into life, including a new flag football team. “Today, Dominick is a freshman in high school and leukemia-free. While he is thankful for his new life and new family, Jeanelle says they are the lucky ones.”

Photo Credit: Sam Cohen