Andrew was a 14-year-old who was playing 4 soccer games on Saturday, January 27th, 2007, and went into cardiac arrest just 48 hours later. His parents brought him to the hospital on Monday the 29th thinking that he had appendicitis, only to find out that he had leukemia. Andrew went into major septic shock and had to be resuscitated that night. He spent 167 days in the AI duPont Hospital in Wilmington, DE, most of that time in the Intensive Care Unit as "the sickest child we've seen." He bravely battled leukemia, multiple life-threatening infections, numerous surgeries including eye and brain surgery. On Saturday, July 14th, 2007, Andrew was released from pain.
His courageous battle has been chronicled in newspapers, television and on his CaringBridge website where he and his family have received visits from over 1.25MM "friends" who have left messages of prayer, hope, consolation, and stories about their friend Andrew.
Over the 167 days of his hospital stay, word spread across the country and around the world about this handsome athlete-scholar fighting for his life with a very positive attitude -- a B+ attitude -- his blood type. Tens of thousands of B+/Pray for Andrew t-shirts were being worn up and down the mid-Atlantic. B+ bumper stickers appeared on cars. Checking Andrew's CaringBridge website the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night became a ritual for thousands and thousands of "friends." How was Andrew doing? How's the family? What's the latest news? Everyone wondered. Everyone cared about Andrew.
His mom and dad stopped working and moved into his hospital room. His 16-year old sister, Ali, had to carry on with school, sometimes having to rush to the hospital to find her brother being given CPR. Often she did her homework at the hospital and spent the night in Andrew's room with her parents.
Because the family was somewhat isolated in the hospital, they didn't realize what was happening outside. Friends organized meals to arrive nightly all 166 nights. Andrew's high school held prayer services and began each and every class with a prayer for Andrew, which the boys had memorized by the first day. Soccer teams and baseball teams began wearing B+ shirts as their warm-up jerseys. Many began their games with a prayer to Andrew. A bank account was set up to help cover living expenses and strangers from across the country sent donations. Prayer vigils were held on the hospital grounds. Even public schools put up handmade posters and held moments of silence for Andrew. Posters, signs, and gifts flooded the hospital room, including autographed sports apparel from schools, colleges, and pro teams. Friends and colleagues organized a fund-raising 5K run/walk, which set a record for attendance. A friend of a friend rode his bicycle from Oregon to Delaware to raise money and awareness. Rival soccer and basketball teams put on exhibition games. All because they cared about Andrew. The family marveled at this outpouring of love and faith and support for a boy that many of these folks had never met. These new "friends" all said they felt like they knew Andrew. He was that kind of kid.
But Andrew's story isn't just about how brave he was in the hospital (the public only knows half the details). In just 14 short years, Andrew changed the world in so many positive ways. Andrew's life and the way he lived it -- with a B+ attitude -- have somehow made an impact on hundreds of thousands of people. Teenage boys are telling their friends and their parents that they love them. Teens are asking their parents for more family time. Kids are asking "What would Andrew do?" in tough situations. Sports teams are chanting "Play like Andrew." And people are openly talking about their faith. Because they're emulating Andrew.
His family has started the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation to continue to spread the B+ message -- It's not a grade. It's an attitude. -- provide scholarships, financial assistance, and research grants. Andrew's Dad speaks at schools, to sports teams, at organization meetings. They've also developed B+ cards to encourage acts of kindness to honor Andrew. Everything from chores to opening doors, and random gifts (lottery tickets on windshields) to gifts for other sick kids (video camera, iPod) have been done to spread the B+ message. Many kids have written that they're asking for donations to the B+ Foundation in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts!
Every single day Andrew's family receives emails, letters, phone calls about Andrew and the B+ Foundation, and requests for B+ T-shirts, wristbands, and B+ cards. People tell them that Andrew has changed their lives, and that they pray to Andrew. That's why Andrew's mom recently told a reporter, "We're lucky. We get to talk about Andrew every day." But still, every day without Andrew is hard. Hearing from friends and "friends we haven't yet met" helps keep them going. That, and the goal to spread the B+ message nationally. Andrew would have wanted that.
You can learn more about Andrew through the news stories and newspaper articles linked here.