SPOKANE, Wash – Imagine being a parent, and watching your child survive brain cancer - only to have a life-threatening brain hemorrhage years later.
That's exactly what a Fairchild Air Force Base family has gone through. But thanks to the Milk-Bone Canine Assistants program, their son, Daniel, now has a new life-saving friend.
At just 18, Daniel has been through more than most people experience in a lifetime.
At age 7, he started getting unexplained headaches. But when his family took him to the doctor, they were shocked to hear he had a malignant brain tumor the size of an egg, and had to go into emergency surgery the very next day.
"First of all, you're in shock that the word ‘cancer' is now associated with your 7 year old son," said Daniel's mother, Lori Swanson. "It doesn't seem to fit."
After the 6-hour operation, and his brain's reaction to it, Daniel awoke blind, mute, and paralyzed.
"Because of the symptoms he had, there was a time when we weren't sure if he was going to make it," Lori added. "We didn't know, would we even have him for a year?"
Amazingly, young Daniel fought the brain cancer – and won. He lived a healthy life for several years with his first service dog, Dasher. But then, two years ago at age 16, Daniel was away from his parents on a trip to Mexico when he had a brain hemorrhage that bled in two places.
"It was crazy; an absolutely crazy time," said his father, retired Lt. Col. Phil Swanson. "You go ‘Why did I let him go? What's going to happen?' It went by in a blur.
Doctor in Mexico told the family Daniel had a second brain tumor – thankfully, that turned out not to be the case. But again, he faced a difficult surgery and road to recovery.
"He has miraculously survived two life-threatening illnesses," Lori said. "There's still no words for that."
Daniel beat cancer, but his first service dog Dasher, didn't. After 9 years together, Dasher passed away in 2011.
But now, a smile is back on Daniel's face. He is now cancer-free, with a new friend who rarely leaves his side.
"Any disability doesn't mean your life is over," Daniel told KHQ. "You can always improve, and if you need, the service dogs make a really good friend to help you do that."
Sprock helps Daniel with walking and balance. The service dogs can pull wheelchairs, open doors, even get car keys. Sprock can detect seizures and strokes before they happen, giving Daniel time to get help or medication, or lay down.
"His nickname on the Wii… his ‘miracle,' and twice now, we've seen miraculous healing," added Phil.
The Swanson family lives at the Fairchild Air Force Base. Daniel's father, Phil, was there on active duty for three years, and has been retired now for almost 6 years.
This match was made possible through the Milk-Bone company and the Canine Assistants Program based in Georgia. If you know someone in the military community who could use a life-saving friend like Sprock, learn more at www.canineassistants.org.