It takes a very special child to think of others in the middle of a difficult time.

After six-year-old Nixon was able to go home following life-saving surgery at HSC Children’s Hospital, he immediately wanted to return to give back.

Loaded up with gift cards on a trip to the toy store, all Nixon and his sister, Kiara, chose to buy were gifts for children in hospital.

“It just makes us feel a little bit better, to try to make kids smile because we know it’s hard being in hospital,” says Nixon and Kiara’s mom, Liezel.

“You don’t realize until you need it, how much Children’s Hospital can help your family. The doctors, the nurses, the entire staff… they made a big difference and helped us so much through the tough times. I’m so thankful.” 

Nixon’s dad, Jason, says that when they noticed he was becoming sick, it sent his family on an emotional rollercoaster.

“You don’t know how it really feels to have a sick child until you’re in that position,” says Jason. “For the first time ever, I felt helpless for my family.” 

In the fall of 2023, Nixon went from being a happy-go-lucky child to struggling with weakness, fatigue and eventually difficulty with certain movements like eating and drinking. He would fall asleep in school, and Liezel and Jason noticed Nixon wasn’t growing. Initially doctors thought he may have a virus but in November 2023, when the symptoms got worse, Nixon’s pediatrician referred him to a neurologist.  The neurologist examined Nixon and ordered an MRI.

The MRI revealed a tumor the size of a baseball in Nixon’s brain, and he was admitted immediately and began working with the neurology team at HSC Children’s.

Doctors explained to the family that Nixon has craniopharyngioma, a rare type of noncancerous brain tumor. The tumor was affecting Nixon’s vision, pressing on his pituitary gland and stunting his growth. Craniopharyngioma is too risky to remove, and could cause brain damage, so surgeons drained the fluid from Nixon’s tumor and placed a shunt.  

“Those four hours in surgery seemed long, very long,” says Liezel. “Giving him that last kiss before he went in, I said, ‘be strong, come back.’”

Liezel and Jason felt immense relief when they heard Nixon was in recovery. He spent a few more days in hospital then returned home to continue healing. The medication Nixon needed at the time caused night terrors and many sleepless nights for the entire family, but eventually his energy came back, and he began to get stronger.  

“Just to see him smile, that’s the main thing,” says Liezel. “Before he couldn’t smile, now he has a full smile.”

Nixon does have some irreversible vision loss from the tumor and will continue to see specialists at HSC Children’s until he’s an adult, including oncology experts who will watch to make sure the tumor doesn’t become cancerous and endocrinologists who will help Nixon grow.  

Nixon’s family is dedicated to giving back to share their thanks for the support system they have at Children’s Hospital.

“Every year we’re going to save money so that we can donate towards research,” says Liezel. “We want to help out, so the teams can find new ways to help kids.”

In December of 2023 not only did Nixon’s family make a generous donation, but they brought in the new toys that Nixon and Kiara picked out for kids receiving treatment.

Nixon has a special relationship with the team at HSC Children’s and always shares a special message with those looking after him. He tells them:

“You make my heart happy.”

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