Bethel Park child with brain tumor creating smiles for ill children
His face was swollen and his head was wrapped in bandages, but he wouldn’t let the after effects of an operation for a brain tumor keep him from smiling — twice.
Sean Rovers, of Bethel Park, who turns 11 today (his birth due date was Christmas Day), endured two surgeries within six months to remove brain tumors.
“Every time he would come out of surgery he would have a smile on his face,” says his mother Maria Rovers. “…even though he was in pain. When he was in the hospital, every nice thing someone did for him helped him, and he appreciated it. So he wants to give back.”
“We need more smiles in today’s world,” Sean says.
In order to help bring more smiles to the faces of those children at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville, where he was treated, Sean created “Smiles from Sean,” a project developed based on inspiration and compassion of all the people that were there for the Rovers family.
How it began
The idea was Sean’s and his mother’s, but they say it is truly a team effort.
The project consists of emoji pillows, smiley face stress balls, and emoji cinch backpacks.
“This is our dedication to commemorate Sean’s first year since the diagnosis,” says Maria Rovers. “We want to remember the day as Sean’s putting a smile to other kids’ faces who are going through so much at a very young age.”
The smiley items Sean collects are donated to the Child Life Department at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, which provides developmental, educational, social and emotional support to children of all ages ranging from birth to young adulthood. Child Life strives to help patients and families understand and cope with their hospital stay and overall health care experience.
Sean used money donated to him for his medical situation to buy these items for “Smiles from Sean.”
So far, he has given over 200 pillows, stress balls and backpacks. For his birthday today, he is asking for money to buy more. People can donate at http://greaterpawv.wish.org/ .
Sean talked about his journey on Make-A-Wish Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia TV recently at The Mall at Robinson. He discussed how he was diagnosed with a brain tumor on Oct. 22, 2017. It was removed two days later.
Sean had no history of a major health issue. He was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor called myxoid mesenchymal tumor on the brain (a type of CNS Sarcoma).
At an annual routine check-up it was discovered he had lost almost 10 pounds in one year. The pediatrician thought it was a nutrition issue, but once on a food plan they found that wasn’t working. Additional testing uncovered anemia, but it wasn’t until a whole body MRI revealed a tumor on the lining of his brain the size of a golf ball. He had surgery on Oct. 24, 2017.
On March 5, 2018, it was revealed that tumor returned as did two more. He had surgery on April 17, followed by six weeks of radiation.
The trip of a lifetime
But before the second surgery, he was able to take a trip to Florida thanks to Make-A-Wish.
The family –Sean, his mother and father Michael and siblings Seath, 9, Sam, 5, and baby Shane traveled to Legoland Florida and Universal Orlando and the Kennedy Space Center where Sean met retired astronaut Bruce Melnick.
“Make-A-Wish is amazing,” says his mom Maria Rovers. “They set up everything and took care of everything. It’s been extremely challenging. But we have had great support and everyone at Children’s Hospital and Make-A-Wish as well as the Bethel Park community.” “Being able to take that trip to Florida helped us get away from the situation for a little bit,” says Michael Rovers. “My son is one tough kid. When the doctors and nurses would come in to his room he would make their day because he would be smiling. He was in pain, but he never complained. He just kept smiling.”
Maria Rovers says she hopes to continue delivering these smiles into 2019.
“My son is so brave and very motivated,” Maria Rovers says. “He is an inspiration. He wanted to buy the smiley pillows with donations given to us to other kids can have smiles when they are going through a tough time in the hospital. We hope the pillows can create some diversion from all the medical issues these children and their families have to deal with. It was such a tough time for us. It’s about taking life one day at a time, one smile at a time.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.