An unforgettable day for Mateo, a future pilot
Mateo and Raúl did not know each other until yesterday but they have an enormous amount in common. Mateo is 6 years old and at the age of 2 he was diagnosed with leukaemia. Raul is in his thirties and a member of the José Carreras Foundation, as well as a bone marrow donor.
One is from A Coruña, and the other lives in Barcelona but they both share the same passion; flying.
Raúl and Mateo.
Several months ago, Raúl read the interview with Mateo in the latest edition of our Foundation magazine (Boletín Verano 2010) in which Mateo explained that "when he grows up he wants to be a doctor and a pilot". In addition to being an air traffic controller, Raúl regularly flies with the Aéroclub at Sabadell. For this reason it occurred to Raúl to invite Mateo to take a ride in a small plane.
Taking advantage of Mateo's visit to Barcelona with his mother, Maria for his monthly consultation, we organised a meeting that was so successful that we want to share it with you.
We met Mateo and María at 3pm at Sant Pau Hospital. The young boy was excited about the exceptional afternoon that lay ahead. "Best of all, I don't have any pain after an injection today, they didn't open a vein like they sometimes do", explained Mateo contently. He speaks like an adult and his mother explained that he has matured a lot and gained strength. She gave us this example, "one day Mateo's father said jokingly ‘Mateo, you cannot be a Barça fan, you have to follow Depor' but as Andrés Iniesta had been to visit him one Christmas in the UCI he turned to his father and said ‘Iniesta has done me the honour of visiting me in hospital to cheer me up so I cannot let him down".
It is normal that he has matured rapidly having lived his whole life in hospitals. At two years old he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. The disease was very advanced and over 90% of his blood contained blast cells. After several months of chemotherapy in the hospital of A Coruña, he was transferred to Barcelona. Mateo had to undergo a bone marrow transplant, which allowed him to return to a more or less normal life. Sadly, this only lasted a year.
"That year was the only one in which he has been to school", explained María, his mother. "Now, a few days ago he began a new course and he is delighted". After recovering for the first time, he relapsed and there was no other option but to carry out a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. As his older sister Antia, was not compatible with him, Dr. Badell's team at the Hospital de Sant Pau began a search for an unrelated donor with our Foundation. It was a struggle to find a donor at first but finally the Register of Bone Marrow Donors (REDMO) located an American umbilical cord blood unit for Mateo. December will mark two years since his transplant.
"He is a strong boy", said Maria, "although he felt bad, and although he was in intensive care, he got up to play and make jokes, etc". "Do you remember the potion Mum?" interrupted Mateo laughing. "When I was in intensive care I made a potion with toothpaste, shampoo, and other things then gave it to my nurse, Carlos, to drink". "And, did it work?" we ask. Maria broke in, "imagine Mateo's face when the nurse came back with a braided blonde wig and asking what Mateo had put in the potion because he felt a little strange".
By 4pm we were in the Sabadell Aéroclub café waiting for Raúl, who arrived with his hands full of presents for Mateo; an aeroplane sticker album and a model red baron plane. The afternoon went very well, with Mateo returning the gesture to Raúl with a bottle of typical Galician liquor. "It was made by my grandfather" Mateo explained proudly. We went to collect the plane's keys and register, and Mateo was presented with an aviator's hat and shirt. "For him, this is like a film", explained a very content Maria.
Mateo, very pleased with his gifts.
Collecting the keys for the plane.
And finally, we were directed to the runway. Raúl taught Mateo how to get the plane ready, by checking the petrol, etc... and with that we were ready for take off! The young boy was thrilled with both his "new career" and Raúl, who took time to explain each and every detail. They formed an "odd couple" but they got on very well. Accompanied by Luis, a flying instructor, Mateo and María began the trip "very nearly" piloted by Mateo. "I pressed the buttons, and I saw the houses from the sky...", explained Mateo after landing.
Later on, we visited the control tower. Gabi and Javier joined Raúl to explain all the machines to Mateo. We were fortunate in the fact that at that moment, two French military helicopters came in to land. Mateo was awestruck! The things that he could tell his best friends at school, Hugo and Jaime, when he went back to Galicia the following day.
It was a spectacular day for Mateo and for us too, who all had a great time. "What happens if he wants to be a pilot", we asked María. "Better than some other options", she replied, "Once he told us that he wanted to be a bullfighter, which gave Dr. Badell a fright". The Doctor told Mateo that "with all it has taken to cure you, and remembering just how unwell you were, you cannot go on to be a bullfighter because we will be too concerned that something will happen".
Raúl and Mateo preparing the plane.
Mateo and his mum waving before the trip.
From the José Carreras Foundation we want to thank Raúl from the bottom of our hearts for his kindness and for the affection with which he organised everything. At every turn he was thinking about each detail to ensure that Mateo was enjoying himself. Thank you for being a member of our Foundation and above all for being so sensitive in the fight against leukaemia. It was an unforgettable day for all.
Thank you also to the Sabadell Aéroclub for allowing us to enjoy everything completely free of charge.
From right to left; Raúl, member of the José Carreras Foundation; Mateo, leukaemia patient; María, Mateo's mother; and Alexandra, Responsible for Communications at the José Carreras Foundation.
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