Super Charger Makes Everyone Around Him Stronger

Posted by Glenn Fredricks on Feb 02 2006 at 04:00PM PST
Student inspires others with attitude, service Danny Hohman Teen who has battled tumor volunteers with hospital, school board BY VINCENT TODARO Staff Writer SPOTSWOOD — Student representative to the Board of Education and star baseball player are merits in which any kid would take pride. But for Danny Hohman, they’re extra special. The 16-year-old junior at Spotswood High School has a tumor on his brain, something that has required medical attention for most of his life. But his situation has not stopped him from excelling academically, serving as the junior representative to the school board, and playing baseball, or even from volunteering to help others, a service that recently landed him an award. Hohman was recognized for his work with the Youth Advisory Council of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The council includes teenagers and children, all former patients and their siblings, who guide the hospital in creating an environment that is responsive to children. Danny serves on the council and helps the hospital set up programs and activities for young patients. He recently sold 500 bracelets to raise money for the council, according to his mother, Kathie. Danny received the award, presented by New Brunswick-based radio station Magic 98.3 FM, at a Kids Who Make Magic Dinner last Thursday. Danny, who was previously honored as a Kohl’s Kids Who Care winner for helping oncology patients, said it “feels good” to be recognized, especially since so few receive the award he was given last week. “I like people to notice the things I’m doing,” he said. When asked if he is giving back because of all the help he’s received since becoming sick, Danny said he doesn’t necessarily view his actions that way. “I just like helping others,” he said. Marge Drozd, a former Board of Education president who ran for Borough Council last year, nominated Danny for the Kids Who Make Magic Award. Many in the Spotswood community know Danny both for his achievements and his intrepid attitude toward overcoming his condition. And now all signs point to him finally beating the tumor. Last March, an MRI was taken and showed that Danny’s tumor, located in the optic pathway behind his eye, had grown in such a way that it made it possible to have surgery performed to remove part of it. He had that surgery the day after school ended last year, removing 70 percent of the tumor, Kathie said. All of the cystic portion was removed, along with part of the tumor itself. The cystic area had been the cause of severe problems when Danny was a freshman. Doctors could not remove all of the tumor because part of it sits on an optic nerve. Any damage to the nerve could cause blindness. “He’s had two MRIs since then, and the tumor has remained stable,” Kathie said. “They are watching it now, but don’t feel it will grow again.” Doctors have been watching the tumor since Danny was 5 years old, when it was discovered. He received 11 months of chemotherapy when he was 6 to shrink the tumor. The tumor remained stable until 2003, when it began to grow cysts, something that resulted in several surgeries due to the placement of shunts in his head and a related infection. “To him, this is just the normal way,” Kathie said of the constant medical attention. “He’s confident everything has been taken care of.” But last year’s surgery didn’t mean it was all smooth sailing. The tumor rests on a pituitary gland, and when tumors are removed from that area, the patient often suffers a hormonal deficiency, Kathie said. So Danny was given a steroid that added adrenaline to his system. But the drug also caused him to gain weight, which in turn caused other problems that require physical therapy. Still, Danny has been cleared by doctors to play baseball this spring, and he has even made the National Honor Society, Kathie said. As for serving as a student representative on the school board, Kathie said it’s all part of his nature. “He loves doing that kind of stuff,” she said. It was Danny’s school principal, Thomas Calder, who suggested he serve with the board. “I knew it would be a great thing to do,” Danny said of the position. “The [senior representative] I work with is nice, and it’s a nice honor because I’m the only kid in the grade to do it.” And the board appreciates having him around. Board President Alan Bartlett said Danny “brings life and fun to our board meetings, and is a delight to be around.” A good example of Danny’s attitude was the care he showed for then-Superinten-dent of Schools Tony Vaz last year before Vaz went in for stomach surgery. “Here is this kid who has battled so much, trying to get Tony’s spirits up and telling him not to worry; everything will be fine,” Bartlett said. Danny, he said, is “a source of inspiration to all of us. “He has the greatest attitude of anyone I have encountered in my lifetime,” Bartlett said. “There are times you can see just by his movements that he is in pain, yet when you ask him how he is doing, he flashes you that million-dollar smile and tells you he’s doing fine.” image


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