This time, the surprise will be good news
MICHIGAN CITY – At age 8, Amir Agemy has faced many surprises in his young life, most of them unpleasant. Next week he’ll get one that his mom hopes will be memorable for a different reason.
Amir, a third-grader at Joy Elementary School, is just your typical fun-loving kid, his mother, Kim Agemy said.
“He loves art, gym and anything that is involved in being creative. Amir is very involved with helping at after-school functions ... After school, he loves going to our Michigan City Library to do his homework and use the new 3D printer to create different figurines.”
But he has do all that around frequent doctor visits, recurring hospital stays, regular blood tests and shots, and illnesses other kids might avoid.
At age 5, Amir was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes after reaching dangerously high blood sugars.
“In the last three years Amir has had to face many challenges since being diagnosed,” Kim Agemy said. “Amir has stayed strong and has and continues to be a fighter. Amir has had to face many more obstacles than a regular 8-year-old should have to face.
“He has missed school days for doctor’s appointments and days for not feeling well. Being a diabetic makes your immune system much weaker and makes him susceptible to colds easier,” she said.
That’s where Baking Memories 4 Kids comes in. Since 2012, the organization has been selling chocolate chip cookies to help children with life-threatening and terminal illnesses with special surprises, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Smith. Nearly 150 families have been “surprised” so far; Amir will be the first in Indiana.
“Our hope is that the memories these families create together will help them refocus, reconnect and re-energize their spirits for whatever may lie ahead.”
On Monday, BM4K founder Frank Squeo, himself a cancer survivor, will travel to Michigan City for a Community Celebration at the American Legion.
“With the help of city officials, members of the community, and donations from businesses and restaurants, Baking Memories 4 Kids will add Amir to our list of amazing Cookie Kids by surprising him and his younger brother, Mazin, at an event featuring food, fun, surprises and more,” Smith said.
Kim Agemy is thankful for the group’s efforts, but said without his doctor, Amir might not be around for the event.
“We would not be here today to celebrate this surprise if it wasn’t for Dr. [Usama] Moustafa [of La Porte Physician Network Pediatric Care] and his amazing staff,” she said.
“July 17, 2015 is a day our family will never forget. This was the day that Dr. Moustafa saved Amir’s life. Amir had not been acting like himself the night before. The next morning we had called and spoke with Diane (Moustafa’s nurse) and explained Amir’s symptoms.
“It caused great concern to her and she made arrangements to have him seen right away. ... As soon as Dr. Moustafa saw Amir, within minutes he explained he needed to be taken to La Porte Hospital.”
The doctor had diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic, cause unknown. The pancreas shuts down and stops producing insulin – “Amir’s blood sugar readings were off the charts,” his mom said.
At La Porte Hospital, arrangements were made for a transfer to Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
“We spent four long, exhausting days in the pediatric ICU unit. We commend the staff at Comer’s for the quick action upon arriving. We had three doctors and four nurses standing in his room when we arrived.
“As, a parent your try and stay strong for your child, but I can say it was very emotional and scary for all of us. During those four days, we all learned what this new life would be. We spent several hours being educated on how to care for Amir.
“At that time, it all seemed so impossible and we were scared of doing something wrong. The nurses and doctors assured us with their support. After he got the OK to be released and finally go home, we spent the next six months adjusting.
“It was quite the challenge for all of us involved. We had amazing support from my parents and my sister-in-law Fatima. She is like a second mom to our kids. ... She and my dad (Curt Hatfield) both have been our backbone. We can’t appreciate them enough for what they do on a daily basis for us.”
Amir goes to Riley Children’s Hospital every 3 months to see Dr. Haddad, a diabetic doctor who “has been a great support to us,” Kim Agemy said. “Dr. [Nadine] Haddad has always been there to encourage Amir and us. To us she feels like family.”
Squeo’s story was much like Amir’s, though he was not a child when his life changed.
“In 2007, while vacationing with a friend, I noticed a lump in my neck – in a dizzying flash I went from my friend’s company and comfort to the uncertainty of a doctor’s office. Thus began months of appointments, consultations, biopsies, and near-crippling worry ... I had an advanced form of testicular cancer – one that was days away from entering my brain.”
For three months, Squeo endured chemo, but said he was “blessed to have an amazing group of doctors, the love and support of my friends and family, and the memories of all I had experienced...”
But he knew kids did not have those memories to bank on.
“My treatment made me aware of the many people – the many children – that had prognoses far worse than my own. Children who have spent most of their young lives within these very walls with little to no memory of life without sickness.
“I could see firsthand the toll that their diagnosis had on their small bodies and the lives of their loved ones. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and my experience with cancer changed my life forever in more ways than I could have imagined.”
Always someone who loved children, Squeo said it was time to do something.
“I knew that my cancer was for a reason. It is ironic, what I had thought was the worst possible outcome of being diagnosed with cancer, turned into the most amazing gift of knowing my destiny.”
So he created Baking Memories 4 Kids, selling the same chocolate chip cookies he’d given as gifts to customers.
They set up special surprises for the kids, which, he said, “will never erase the ordeals that these families have endured, but maybe for just a moment they will be able to put aside those thoughts and focus on the joy of living and create some positive memories like those that sustained me through my own cancer battle.”
Amir plans to go to college to become a video game designer, Kim Agemy said. “He enjoys his video game playing with his little brother, Mazin. He also enjoys time with his grandparents, cousins and friends. He loves to be able to help people, it makes him feel complete. Especially his Sito (grandma) when she makes her delicious Lebanese foods.”
Squeo hopes Amir has a lot of years left to play games, help out and spend time with family.
That’s why he’s hoping for a large turnout on Monday.
“I invite you to come along with me on this amazing journey and become a Memory Maker for those desperate to have something to look forward to. Together, we can create memories, one cookie at a time.”
What: Baking Memories 4 Kids hosts celebration and ‘surprise’ for 8-year-old Amir Agemy
Where: American Legion, 756 E. U.S. 20, Michigan City
When: Monday, Nov. 19
Time: Doors open at noon, then close at 12:50 p.m. for arrival of special guests
Info: Kim Agemy, 219-898-6782 or firstname.lastname@example.org