September 26, 2019 was a day just like any other for the Owens family. Chris Owens picked up his 6-year-old son, Aiden, from school and listened to him chatter happily about how much fun he had in gym class. Aiden was his usual energetic self as he came home and started jumping on the couch. Suddenly, he ran to the upstairs bathroom, calling out to Chris that he didn’t feel well. When Chris got upstairs, Aiden had already vomited and passed out in his sister’s arms. Chris immediately called his wife, Amanda, to meet them at the ER near their home in Saginaw, Michigan.
At first, Amanda was certain that whatever was wrong with her son had to do with his heart. Aiden was born with a congenital heart disease that led to two open-heart surgeries before he had even had his first birthday. The doctors tested his heart right away and assured Amanda and Chris that whatever was happening had nothing to do with his heart.
Panic began to creep in, and Amanda began to worry that Aiden’s symptoms could be related to a brain tumor. Amanda pleaded to have a CT scan performed, but the doctors wanted to first rule out other potential explanations for his condition. “It took 24 hours and multiple invasive tests to get the hospital to agree to do a CT. It took them about two minutes to see that Aiden had bleeding in his brain once the CT results came in,” said Amanda.
The hospital decided to send Aiden to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor for further testing. As Amanda’s worst fears set in, a storm began to roll through. Instead of airlifting Aiden to Mott, the hospital’s Survival Flight crew came and took the family by ambulance. Within 24 hours of arriving at Mott, the doctors told Amanda and Chris that Aiden had been diagnosed with a glioma (a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord).
“This cancer was located directly in the center of Aiden’s brain and inside of his consciousness, so there was no way to operate and remove it,” said Amanda. Because Aiden’s tumor had already caused bleeding in his brain, a biopsy (which is sometimes performed to learn more about the tumor) would be too risky.
Aiden fought his cancer valiantly while continuing to spread joy to his family; his infectious laughter and spectacular smile brought sunshine to even the darkest days. He fought hard, even as the new year brought a new set of hurdles due to COVID-19. As Aiden’s health continued to decline, the family still had to isolate themselves from other loved ones in order to protect him and themselves from contracting the virus.
On March 26, 2020, Aiden lost his battle to pediatric brain cancer. While support and condolences poured in from around the world, the family had to honor Aiden with a private funeral due to the pandemic.