WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Brandon Hohenadel was considered a good kid and a high school role model by someone who knew him well — his mom.
“He was always the leader of the pact," said Lisa Hohenadel Gettel. "He had so many friends. So many people respected him and looked up to him. He had so many dreams.”
Brandon was a normal, healthy, energetic teenager.
“He was a basketball player for school," his mom says. "He worked a part time job. He went to school during the day. He had no health issues.”
A Tuesday in 2013, however, changed the course of Brandon’s life.
“He was actually playing street ball with a bunch of his friends on Tuesday night. He came home that night—said he had a sore throat. Wednesday morning—got up—sore throat, fever. Fever started to get worse.”
Still, Brandon and his family weren’t thinking the worst. They thought it might be strep throat.
"By Friday he was having a hard time swallowing apple sauce. Saturday morning, things were worse. He wasn’t able to swallow water. Fever was about 103. So we went down to our family doctor Saturday morning and they took cultures for mono. And the family doctor called me Sunday morning and said we needed to get our bags packed—we were going to Hershey’s Children’s hospital in Hershey, Pennsylvania and that we were not coming home. That it was leukemia.
It was AML leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
“AML leukemia requires you to literally live in the children’s hospital during your treatment. Sometimes that’s three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, six weeks. You really don’t know until its safe for you to leave the hospital before you start your next treatment. And when I say we lived at the children’s hospital, we literally lived there," Lisa recalled.
Realizing Brandon was one of thousands of children living with cancer, Lisa started Brandon’s Battle, a non-profit that makes goody baskets for families who have no choice but to stay at pediatric hospitals while their child receives treatment.
“With some games, some toys some puzzles, reading materials. Things that will try to occupy their mind for a little bit of time while they are there. You know days turn into weeks—weeks turn into months. And life’s a blur at that time,” she said.
A children’s hospital became Brandon’s home away from home. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was grueling. His dreams of going to Syracuse University put on hold.
“A punch in the gut,” his mom recalls. "It was heart wrenching for Brandon. It was his senior year of school. He was going to miss his basketball season. He was possibly going to miss a prom.
Brandon fought hard to live, but in the end, the treatment for his leukemia was too much for his body.
“The treatment is what killed him. He died of a heart attack," Gettel said.
Brandon died in 2016. He was just 21.
Four years later, his mom has not given up on Brandon’s Battle. While her son’s life was cut short, she knows there are thousands of children,like her son, fighting every day to live. Her mission is to bring comfort to families who are following in her footsteps.
Brandon’s Battle has given over 600 goodie bags to pediatric hospitals in Chapel, Durham and Winston-Salem.
If you would like to donate to Brandon’s Battle, click here.