Saturday, March 28, 2009

Boy's illness no match for the love of friends

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Daniel Farnham is here.
That's become a common half-time rally cry at Central Texas Christian School basketball games.
'The announcer says those words, and everybody stands up and cheers,' said Coach Nuni Venegas. 'Daniel comes out to wave. It's wonderful.'
But it was no score or trick on the court that earned Daniel the honor. It was a far harder battle against pain.
Two years ago, the high school junior was diagnosed with lupus - an autoimmune disease that weakens the body's defense system against viruses, bacteria and germs. He was sick for several months before he got his diagnosis.
'At first we thought it was mono,' said his mother, Janelle Farnham of Temple.
The symptoms fit, but the medication didn't work - and Daniel had developed a host of other problems.
'There was stage 3 kidney disease, anemia and heart problems,' Mrs. Farnham said.
And the doctors did test after test until one finally pointed to lupus.
'Finally, a diagnosis,' Mrs. Farnham said. 'We know people with lupus, and they seem to live fairly normal lives. We weren't happy that's what it was, but we were relieved it wasn't something much worse.'
Daniel started taking the right medications, and his health improved.
'The fever went down, he started eating again, and he was up and walking,' Mrs. Farnham said.
Daniel was able to attend classes, play basketball and enjoy extracurricular activities like baseball and theatre arts.
But the good life didn't last long. In a short while, Daniel had developed avascular necrosis - or bone deterioration - in both hips and left shoulder.
'He had to have surgery,' Mrs. Farnham said. 'It was hurting him to move.'
The doctors had to place a bone graft and alter the blood flow, so that it would regenerate bone growth.
The October 2008 surgery went well and Daniel felt great for about 10 days.
'And then it pretty much all went wrong,' Daniel said, laughing. He knows his story sounds like a broken record of bad luck.
The surgery led way to a series of Staphylococcus bacteria infections. Each time an infection flared, the doctors would have to reopen the surgery site and flush it with cleansing agents - and Daniel would have to take more antibiotic medication, first by an IV and then orally.
'I've missed a lot of school. I've been out for about four months since October,' Daniel said. 'But the Staph infection is cleared up now, and I'm on a pill that I have to take for a year. So I'm able to come to school for part of the day. I've been coming back for a couple of weeks now.'
First he had to use a wheel chair to navigate the school's halls, but now he can manage with a walker that can double as a stool.
His last X-ray showed that Daniel's left hip had deteriorated to the point where a total replacement is necessary. That surgery will not happen until the doctors determine the status of his right hip and left shoulder.
Since returning to CTCS, Daniel's daily schedule had to be altered.
'I comes to school at 11:45 a.m.,' Daniel said. 'I eat lunch with my friends, and I take two classes, chemistry and pre-calculus. History and English, I'm doing that at home. Pre-cal and chemistry are harder. I kind of need a teacher for that.'
The shortened day gives Daniel the best of both worlds. He can get the rest he needs while having the opportunity to go to school - a social environment he says he very much enjoys.
'Everyone has been very supportive since I came back,' Daniel said. 'Nobody has made fun of me or anything like that.'
Far from it. Coach Venegas says Daniel has always been the kind of guy everyone likes. No surgery or infection changed that.
If anything, to his friends, Daniel has become an inspiration.
'He's an awesome guy,' said senior Clay Crews. 'He hasn't given up once, and he's never had a bad attitude, even though there's plenty of reason for it. I don't know how he does it.'
The coach said that when Daniel got sick, it affected all of the students on an emotional level.
'They saw him get sick, and they saw him not come back,' Venegas said. 'It got to them.'
But in the time he was gone, he wasn't forgotten.
'Every time shirts had to be ordered or something like that, somebody would always raise their hand and say, 'Don't forget about Daniel.''
And so, with the help of his friends, Daniel is trying to make the best of the rest of his junior year. He studies, and he goes to basketball games to cheer for his team.

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