Lights flashed and sirens roared—it was a moment Dorchester County deputies and the Hernandez family won’t soon forget. That’s because this month local fourth-grader Gaige Thigpen, escorted by officers, returned to Reeves Elementary School after a more than a year-long battle with leukemia.
“As a mom, my heart was completely exploding,” said Serena Hernandez. “I knew that time stood still.”
She explained she suggested the escort idea to her friend, who works at the county dispatch center, but never dreamed it would happen—that six deputies would show up to her house the morning of Jan. 22. When the family and officers arrived at school, the moment only turned sweeter and rendered Hernandez “speechless,” she said.
“The hallways were lined with students and teachers and administrative staff,” she said. “They were just all rooting and cheering for Gaige. “We couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect.”
Even Gaige shed a few tears during the unique welcome back moment.
“He was so proud of himself; he walked the hall of fame this morning and smiled from ear-to-ear,” Hernandez said. “There’s just no words. …God has always been in (Gaige’s) lane.”
On Jan. 3 doctors officially relayed the news the local family had been hoping and praying to hear since her son’s health woes started in September 2017: Gaige is cancer free. She said Gaige’s medical woes started when he was thrown from a golf cart, fracturing his tibia and fibula in his right ankle. The injury forced him into homebound care. In January 2018 it was discovered Gaige actually had B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
This past fall Gaige received T-cell therapy to replace missing B-cells and re-engineer them. The family flew to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in November, and Gaige received the unique treatment, which Hernandez said gave him a 30-percent higher chance, than bone marrow transplant surgery, of beating his cancer.
Today he’s stronger than ever.
“He hasn’t been this healthy in a long time,” Hernandez said.
With chemotherapy treatment in the past, Gaige will now receive monthly infusions of intravenous immunoglobulin, a type of blood therapy with healthy antibodies. The treatment will replace missing Gaige’s missing B-cells.
In addition to school, Gaige has also been released to return to the All-American sport that drives him—baseball. Hernandez said he’ll start back playing travel baseball the end of February and has already been practicing his pitching and hitting with a former Kansas City Royals player.
The joyful mom said she hopes her son’s story encourages other sick children since community support has been her family’s rock.
“It’s not about what people do for you,” Hernandez said. “It’s more about how they make you feel...and that goes a long way.”