The Best Medicine in the World

The Best Medicine in the World
This article was published in Dayton Daily News on April 15, 2015

By Susan Gnann

The Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation has granted over 1,600 wishes in the 31 years since their humble beginnings. Each child’s story is unique. Although we cannot predict the outcome of a diagnoses, we are always happy to celebrate when children beat their life-threatening illnesses and share their story. One such person is Carmine Gentile.

Now, in his thirties, Carmine had a harrowing experience when he was just eleven years old. Helping his father hold up a truss as they constructed a shed, Carmine’s hand slipped and the truss landed on his head. He seemed okay, but the next day, worried that it was a concussion, his mother, Linda, took him to the emergency room at Kettering Medical Center to get him evaluated. A scan showed not a concussion, but a massive brain tumor that if left untreated would surely have caused blindness, disability and, very likely, death. It had probably been there since birth and because of a chance accident at home, the family was made aware of this life-threatening condition. Also, by chance, a leading neurologist, Dr. Theodore Bernstein, happened to be on-call that night and treated Carmine throughout his illness, a stroke of luck the family still considers a blessing since Dr. Bernstein rarely treats pediatric patients.

Carmine had four brain surgeries and spent almost two months in the hospital immediately after his diagnosis. He would later have an additional three surgeries and 25 radiation treatments before the end of seventh grade. Always “just a kid”, Carmine would make trouble, have fun and win hearts at the hospital during the day, but at night after his parents had gone home for the night, Carmine was alone in his room fretting about things no child should ever have to worry about.

“I would lie there and was so afraid I would not make it the next day,” said Carmine. “I called my Mom in the middle of the night and she would come be with me.”

He remembers one night when his Mom asked him, “If you had any wish, what would it be?”

Immediately, Carmine responded, “A chimpanzee!”

Since ASW does not grant wishes of animals, especially exotic ones, his Mom pressed on. He then added meeting Clint Eastwood and going to the game show “Card Sharks”, meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger, or, interestingly, meeting J. Gordon Liddy. He got part of his first wish since unfortunately, none of the celebrities were able to meet.

The family departed for California a year after his diagnosis in the spring of 1989 when he was well enough to travel. They were escorted by limo to the Beverly Hilton Hotel and had plans to be guests of Bob Eubanks on his game show and visit Disneyland. Carmine was disappointed that he would not meet Clint Eastwood, but was enjoying his wish trip nonetheless.

On the second morning of their stay, the family was having breakfast in the hotel and in walked Arnold Schwarzenegger and his entourage. A bold and vivacious boy, Carmine did not hesitate for a moment, despite his mother’s protests. He approached Mr. Schwarzenegger and mentioned he was a Wish Kid who wanted to meet him, but was turned down. Unable to deny Carmine, Arnold agreed to meet him at his gym the next day for photos. The family also went with Mr. Schwarzenegger to Venice Beach.

“It was awesome!” Carmine remembers. Somehow, even during a dark and unlucky time, Carmine had a little luck on his side. “It is surreal to even think about, it was so long ago,” Carmine remembers.

Carmine Gentile currently lives in Springboro with his wife and four children and stays busy with several entrepreneurial ventures. He’s motivated to stay connected to A Special Wish, to give back and encourage other kids who are going through an experience similar to his. Carmine occasionally speaks on behalf of ASW. Knowing all too well how stressful an illness is and how important a Special Wish is to escaping the reality of being sick, Carmine puts listeners in an 11-year-old’s shoes. He knows how it feels to wonder, “Am I going to live or die?” Carmine’s story is enlightening and inspirational and using his gift to engage an audience, he helps ASW raise funds for the many children eligible to receive their Special Wish.

If your group or organization is interested in hosting Carmine for an appearance, please contact ASW at 937-641-4263. The mission of A Special Wish Foundation is to grant the wish of a child or adolescent (birth through age 20) who has been diagnosed by a physician with a life-threatening disorder. As the only wish-granting organization in the Dayton region, ASW relies on local support to help make Special Wishes come. Visit their website at www.aspecialwish.org for more information.

Susan Gnann is the marketing and development manager for the Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation.