Local News

Young Wolfpack Fan Inspires Team

Posted January 21, 2004

— Treating children with serious diseases is not about medicine alone. Adding some fun can make difficult treatments easier to bear. That is especially true for one young patient at the

Duke Brain Tumor Center

.

A brain tumor has robbed 10-year-old Gregory Parrish of most of his vision. The tumor has not stopped him from enjoying his first love thanks to some help from long-time basketball rivals.

At North Carolina State University men's basketball games, Gregory and his father always score the best seats behind the Wolfpack bench.

Gregory's good fortune at N.C. State actually began at Duke.

"Gregory was diagnosed at the age of 2 with a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis type one," said Dr. Sri Gururangan of the Duke Brain Tumor Center.

The tumor in Gregory's brain slowly took away 90 percent of his sight.

A damaged liver forced doctors to stop chemotherapy. They turned to radiation to stop the tumor's growth. That was in November, at the start of basketball season.

Child life specialist Jean Hartford Todd thought Gregory might like front row seats at a Blue Devils home game.

"His mom sort of chuckled and said,' Well, you know he's really a State fan. I don't think he would,'" Todd said.

So Todd arranged for tickets to the N.C. State-Virginia game.

"Then the next day later, [head coach] Herb Sendek called and said because of my enthusiasm, they want me to come to every home game for now on for this season," Gregory said.

The invitation was not just for home games -- Gregory attended a matchup at Duke, too. While Gregory cannot see what is happening on the court, but he can hear everything. His dad, Gary, fills in the gaps.

"He's constantly asking me questions about who has how many fouls," Parrish said. "Through so much negativity, this is something that's just -- he's on cloud nine right now. He's like a little celebrity."

Gregory inspires the entire team. The Wolfpack is 5-1 with Gregory by their side. The whole experience may have helped the 10-year-old turn a corner.

"I'm pleased to say that his scans yesterday showed improvement," Gururangan said. "And his cysts have shrunk to where they're not going to have to drain his head next month."

For Gregory, that spells a winning season.

It is also just one example of how much emphasis Duke places on family support. A young patient fighting cancer or brain tumors stands a better chance if doctors, nurses and counselors can relieve some of the strain placed on the entire family.

Sometimes that is as easy as getting them to a basketball game.

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