Born: June 17, 2010
Diagnosed: March 11, 2018
Died: May 27, 2019
– Strong – Compassionate – Funny – Kind –
Mom, Danielle, says this about Drake: “Drake gets care packages and makes sure to share with his baby brother.”
Mom (Danielle), Dad (Chris), and brothers, Haidyn and Gunner, want others to know Drake’s story “to spread awareness.”
In March of 2018, Drake Quibodeaux was just a normal seven-year-old little boy: much like any other youngster growing up in southern Louisiana.
“He was driving our boat, running up and down the dock being a normal kid” Drake’s mother, Danielle Quibodeaux said. “Then in the span of six hours, he had two seizures and lost every ability to walk, talk and function.”
Drake was admitted to the hospital where he stayed for six weeks. After running a battery of tests Drake’s family received the grim news that Drake was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).
DIPG is a rare inoperable brain tumor found in a part of the brainstem called the pons. The pons controls essential bodily functions such as heartbeat, breathing, swallowing, eye movement, eyesight and balance. As a DIPG tumor begins to grow, it puts pressure on the nerves that control the essential bodily functions regulated by the pons.
Children with DIPG commonly experience double vision, reduced eye movement, facial weakness or asymmetry, and arm and leg weakness. They also have problems with walking, coordination, speech, chewing and swallowing. As the tumor progresses, it also interferes with breathing and heartbeat, which ultimately results in the child’s death. There is no effective treatment and no chance of survival.
For Christmas all Drake wanted was a mailbox full of Christmas cards to help cheer him up. And that is exactly what he got. Drake received well over 140,000 Christmas card. So many in fact that by March 1.2019 the family still had several crates full of cards left to open. Drake received Christmas cards from all over the world. He even received one from President Donald Trump.
Drake’s mother said he had a hard time believing that so many people reached out to him. “He said, ‘Momma, I didn’t know so many people love me. They tell me I’m strong.’” Danielle said.
On December 19, Fort Polk Garrison Commander Command Sergeant Major Jerry Dodson, his spouse, Kim, along with Corporal Devon Douglas, Fort Polk BOSS president, made the two hour trip to Vinton with gifts and cards from the Fort Polk Family.
Dodson said as soon as he entered the Quibodeaux residence and saw the number of Christmas cards Drake had received he realized a lot of people wanted to reach out and brighten Drake’s life.
On March 1, 2019, JRTC and Fort Polk Garrison along with several units made Drake’s dream of being a soldier, like his father Christopher, come true. His day started with a military police escort from the gate to Warrior Memorial Park where LTC Sonja Whitehead of the 519th MP Battalion administered the Oath of Enlistment making him an honorary soldier.
Following his oath, Drake was given a demonstration by the Special Reaction Team (SRT) that included lights and sirens on a speeding truck, an explosion and a police K9 who took down a running suspect. Next, he visited the Fort Polk Fire Department where he was given a ride in a fire truck and a demonstration of the water cannons.
Later in the day, Drake was also given a weapons demonstration, he ate lunch in the dining facility, and he had a meeting with Post Commander BG Patrick Frank and Garrison personnel where they discussed military strategy.
One final stop for Drake was at 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain where 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment presented Drake with a canister with a 3D 105 round. Following a long day full of activities Drake was promoted to Command Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army.
Drake’s mother said Fort Polk inviting Drake to take the oath of enlistment and become an honorary soldier is a dream come true for him. His mother said the events that took place on Fort Polk will probably be the last event Drake will be able to do.
He was in hospice care and his mobility and his health were declining. The last two months of Drake’s life were marked with bouts of pain. But he pushed through it the best he could. Some days Drake was able to accompany his family to feed their horses. The week before his death Drake was able to ride in the families ATV and even drive it into the shed.
Drake continued to amaze his family with his strength and determination, even on the worst days. On May 26 Drake’s health plummeted and his family was given the heartbreaking news that he only had hours, maybe days left. Surrounded by his family in the early morning hours of May 27 Drake slipped away. “Drake won his battle at 2:55 this morning! He ran into the arms of Jesus.”