Disney cruise turns into rescue at sea for critically ill Georgia boy
ATLANTA - At 8, Brayden Webb doesn't say much. Yet, when he does speak, his father says, it's usually memorable.
"He is a very funny, witty kid," Allan Webb says.
The second-grader is also a survivor.
"He's the strongest kid I know," his dad says.
Allen and Melanie Webb of north Georgia got a taste of just how strong Brayden is in July of 2016, on what should have been a dream family vacation.
"It was the 5 of us, going on a Disney cruise," Allan Webb says.
Twins Brayden and Bella, almost 7 at the time, and 10-year old Ben were making the most of their final day at sea.
"So we get up Thursday, have breakfast, hit the watersides on the ship," Webb says. "About noon, he says, 'Dad, I'm tired, I want to go lay down.'"
That seemed odd; Brayden was active, a swimmer.
"So I take him back to the room, my wife goes off with the other two, and he sleeps for 3 and half hours," his father says. Worried, Allan Webb took Brayden to the ship's infirmary, which was just opening for the day.
"By the time I got him down to the infirmary, I was having to hold him in my arms," Webb remembers. "He just couldn't move."
Brayden's belly was swollen and painful, so filled with fluid, it was hard to tell what was happening.
"And, within the hour, the physician is taking X-rays and says, 'Look, I've contacted the captain of the ship. We're stopping the ship. The Coast Guard is coming to get you," Webb says.
At the time, Webb says, the ship was about five miles off the coast of Miami.
"And they show up in a fast boat," he says. "Pull up alongside (the ship). Of course, everybody is up on the rails looking down."
The Coast Guard moved quickly.
"By the time they loaded on a fast boat, to the time we hit the doors of the ER, it was 30 minutes," Brayden's father says.
At a Miami children's hospital, some grim news. Doctors suspected Brayden had cancer.
"The first phone call was to our neighbor across the street, who happens to be our physician," Webb says. "She said, 'Get him to the AFLAC Cancer Center as soon as possible.'"
Within hours, Brayden and the Webbs were on an Angel MedFlight jet, headed to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. That's where more tests confirmed a large, malignant abdominal tumor.
"They tell you, number 1, your 7-year old son has cancer, and number 2 it's stage 3," Webb says. "So it's all throughout his abdominal cavity."
It was the beginning of a long, difficult road. Brayden pushed through 14 rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Finally, in the spring of 2017, the Webbs got a break.
"Exactly nine months later, my son rang the bell at the AFLAC Cancer Center, signaling his end of treatment, that he was cured," Webb says. "He was reborn. We had a new son."
Brayden has been coming back to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta every 3 months for more scans.
There is no sign of cancer.
"I always tell people it's astonishing how much love is in this building," his father says. "It is amazing how dedicated and devoted they are to the cause. And, I love these people."