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From Patient to Treasure Hunter to Inspiration

Alby wished to be a pirate treasure hunter PHOTO: Don Hebert

“ Alby is a beacon
of hope. ”

It’s not easy to walk into a hospital room to meet a 7-year-old boy who has lost all hope. The prospect, though, didn’t deter Alby’s volunteers. They faced Alby at a low point – the treatments had taken his hair and his spirits. He was attached to a nearly uncountable number of medical devices.

Though Alby was originally diagnosed with leukemia, he also faced a grave threat from an infection in his arm. By the time his volunteers arrived, he had gone months without walking or eating on his own. Alby and his mother spent nearly 10 months away from the rest of their family.

Wish-granting volunteers met a boy who had little belief in himself.

“For a period of time in the hospital, he would beg me to let him die,” said his mother, Barbara.

During their meeting, the volunteers figured out a way to make him think about something besides his pain, his fear, his isolation. Alby mentioned a TV show about pirates, and how much he liked watching it.

That turned into a wish to be a pirate treasure hunter. That, along with Barbara’s steadfast encouragement, gave Alby a reason to live. That in itself seemed miraculous.

Motivated by a Wish

As Alby got an emotional lift, the healthcare professionals treating him worked to improve his medical condition. They succeeded day by day, and Alby found refuge in anticipating his wish through it all.

“He lived for that wish. He would ask almost every day since November when we returned home ‘when are we going on our trip?’ It gave him something to look forward to,” Barbara said.

 And finally, one day, Alby was healthy enough for his wish to come true.

A seaside community and its residents granted Alby’s wish. Some of them allowed wish granters to use their boats. Local actors of all ages dressed the part of people from the Golden Age of Piracy.

His pirate adventure had all the elements of a typical childhood fantasy … a normal flight of imagination turned into a happy reality. He fought pirates, he found treasure, he sailed.

Alby also re-connected with his family. His dad and three siblings joined them for the adventure, a welcome change from the time they spent apart when his life was in danger.

Conquering Illness Changes Alby’s Outlook

Today, Alby is a different person. Barbara believes his struggle with illness – which included a relapse after his wish – has made him appreciate life even more than other kids.

“He now feels pleasure, I think, more. He enjoys life more because of what he’s been through.”

Alby agrees. He is eager for other kids like him to find hope in his journey … and realize that, if he can survive, so can they.

“Just keep believing that you'll soon be done,” Alby says. “Keep eating and just get strong.”

“We all hit lows. We all go through pain,” she says. “But we need that hope, and Alby is a picture of hope.”

  • Alby digs for the buried treasure.
    PHOTO: Don Hebert

  • Posing with the newly uncovered loot
    PHOTO: Don Hebert

  • Gold and jewels - just what every treasure hunter seeks!
    PHOTO: Don Hebert

  • Captain Alby takes the helm.
    PHOTO: Don Hebert

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Don't get in the way of a pirate and his loot!

PHOTO: Don Hebert

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