Under a huge canopy, arcade games, a moon walk, a
virtual batting cage, and a football punting cage
offered lots for everyone to do. It was at the climbing
mat area that I caught up with little Bobby Joyce,
who came to these Games with his father, his two and
a half year old brother Kyle, his mother Kelly, and
his grandmother, Shirley Coy.
Bobby's dad, Bob Joyce, told me about how Bobby
When he was just four months old, Bobby suddenly
got sick. His mom thought it was a reaction to the
baby formula she had started giving him. His pediatrician
thought it was pneumonia. But the chest x-ray showed
an enlarged heart; a pediatric cardiologist found
that a virus had attacked Bobby's heart.
Within 48 hours, he was very sick. Within 3 months
he was critically ill, hospitalized, and put on the
waiting list for a donor heart.
Bobby was so sick he went to the top of the waiting
list, and waited only two weeks for a donor heart.
On August 2, 1995, at the tender age of 7 months,
Bobby underwent a heart transplant at the Cleveland
Clinic Children's Hospital.
The Joyces feared they might lose Bobby. And at
the same time, "the parents of that two-year-old made
a tough and courageous decision" to think of others,
during their own time of crisis.
Bobby's dad said that all the Joyce family knows
about the donor is that he or she was a two-year-old
from Chicago. He is grateful that because of the transplant,
they have the opportunity to be with Bobby every day.
Bobby's grandmother remembers when Bobby's family
met a donor family at the 1998 Games. The family's
son had been tragically killed at the age of two.
His injuries had damaged his eyes so that they were
no longer suitable for transplantation, but they donated
all his organs. They said that the donation made them
feel as though their grandson's life had not been
wasted; as though perhaps this was what he was born
to do: to save the lives of seven strangers. For every
day of sadness they had, they knew that seven other
families were able to celebrate life. For them, going
to the Transplant Games and meeting kids like Bobby
proved to them that donation was worth doing.
As young as he is, Bobby understands the importance
of donation and is no stranger to publicity. He and
his family have told their story to the press many
times, all in the name of promoting organ and tissue
donation. At the age of 3, Bobby was presented with
an award from the local city council. Asked if he
had anything to say, he proceeded to tell the following
joke: Why don't lions eat clowns? ...because they
taste funny!" The crowd was thrilled.
Back home, his pre-school teacher says that Bobby
is great at reducing the fears of other kids. Whenever
he hears that another child (or a relative of another
child) has to go into the hospital, or that they are
afraid of a medical procedure, he tells them not to
be afraid. He explains, "The hospital makes you well,
so don't be afraid to get shots or anything. They're
there to help you!"