Hunter Vallejo has very little recollection about his time at Sutter Children’s Center, Sacramento.
After all, he was just a baby when he began undergoing cancer treatment there. He remembers spending a lot of time in and out of hospitals throughout his childhood and he’s grateful for the care he received.
His parents never miss an opportunity to share his amazing story of survival with him. Because of that knowledge, he gave back in a big way last week.
Hunter, who graduated in June 2018 from Nevada Union High School, donated $2,000 to the children’s center’s Child Life team as part of his senior project.
“I want to help kids out that are going through the same thing that I went through,” said Hunter.
“Making this donation is my way of saying thanks to the doctors and everyone else who helped me get better.”
Hunter was seven months old when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The youngest of four brothers, Hunter’s diagnosis shook the Penn Valley family and left them scrambling for answers. The baby was only given six months to live and there was a 2 percent chance he would make it to his first birthday.
“It was a very scary time,” said Kelly Vallejo, Hunter’s mother. “Rick(Hunter’s dad) and I just knew we had to fight this.”
And fight they did. The Vallejo family found the best physicians at Sutter Children’s Center, Sacramento and with a lot of positive thoughts, Hunter became a miracle.
“Of all of the places that we went for treatment for Hunter, Sutter was the best,” said Kelly. “The nurses were so positive about his treatment and they kept him lifted up. Child Life helped his spirits too – just them being there and having activities was big.”
Hunter said he remembers feeling at his best when he was at home, surrounded by his brothers, living a normal life.
By the time he was three years old, he was relatively healthy and living a normal life – playing every sport he could (except football) and even went on to earn his driver’s license.
“It’s hard to say that he was ‘cancer-free,’” said Rick. “That will always loom in our lives. The doctors were blown away that he was able to overcome what he did though.”
Amy Medovoy, child life coordinator, Sutter Children’s Center, was thrilled to welcome back the Vallejo family and gave them a tour of the new hospital.
“His story is incredible,” she said. “What an inspiration. We are extremely grateful that he thought of us and the children and their families here for his senior project. It’s rewarding to know that we left that impact on him and his family.”