PHOENIX - ABC15's 11th Annual Operation Santa Claus is in full swing.
One of the places that benefits from your donations is Phoenix Children's Hospital. The money you donate can make a real difference in the lives of Valley children like Brett Kallmes.
At just six years old, Brett pretty much has it all figured out: he knows what he wants to be when he grows up, "a Jedi," says Brett. He loves math and he loves video games. While all of this is understandable, what's harder to explain, is what his family has had to deal with.
Brett's mother Lisa said "when he was about a month old, we were at his doctor's appointment, he (Brett's doctor) said, 'I kind of hear a bit of a heart murmur'," said Lisa.
This is news no parent wants to hear, but Chris and Lisa weren't too worried; at least not in the beginning.
"Lisa had a heart murmur when she was younger and never had any issues with it, so we were like, 'ok, oh it's just sound, no big deal'," explained Brett's father Chris.
But the hole in Brett's heart didn't close up like the doctors thought it would. So, at just 13 months old, Brett had open heart surgery at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
"Surgery is one thing, but heart surgery is, I mean just raises the bar. And the stress level that goes with it, it's definitely nerve-racking to say the least," said Chris.
"Imagining all the things that, as an adult would be scary to go through, knowing that your baby would be going through it was kind of hard," said Lisa.
"The surgery actually went great," said Chris. "The cardiologist said you never want to have heart surgery, but if you have a heart problem that needs to be repaired, this is the one."
And so, time passed; soon a little sister joined the family. Everything was going pretty well until one day, Brett got a nose bleed that just wouldn't stop. This led to another trip to PCH.
"It was four years later, April of 2010, one month to the day before his fifth birthday," Chris and Lisa said. "They came in and said his white blood cells were really elevated, and because of all these symptoms, we think he has leukemia."
"That's the flip side of that moment of expecting your child: that birth moment. It's the opposite feeling: of dread, what's going to happen to my child?" said Chris.
Brett's treatment began immediately: countless hours of chemo and steroids. Chris and Lisa relied on their faith and each other to get through the days and weeks spent with their son at PCH.
"He's a really resilient kid," said Chris. "He never really was sick, you know? He had such big things he went through but he was always in such good health. That's always been him: super healthy, full of energy, full of life, super talkative."
And so Brett continues to fight, with a steely eyed resolve, to beat his leukemia much like those bad Angry Bird piggies and pesky math problems.