Saturday, August 30, 2014

The boy on the billboard

My personal blog

For the past several months, I have seen a billboard on the Gulf Freeway, northbound, just north of the Galveston causeway. Nothing too special about a billboard on the side of a major highway, right? This one, though, really caught my eye. On it was a child’s face, not advertising McDonald’s Happy Meals or the latest juice box sensation, but asking for prayers.

I’d pass this billboard each day on my way home from work, always wondering how this child was doing. Is he getting better? How is he holding up? Is his family doing OK? I’m not a physician, but I was a paramedic for a long time, have worked in a clinical pathology lab and now do infectious disease research, so I do have an appreciation for the dreaded “c-word.” My wife and I don’t have children, so I can’t even imagine what Percy’s parents are going through.
Ever since I saw this billboard, I’d include Percy, his family and health care team in my prayers, when I remembered to do so. Yes, you read that correctly. I would forget at times to include them in my prayers, especially when other closer to home thoughts took precedence.

About a week ago, on a Monday afternoon, I was driving home from work and noticed a different billboard. I don’t have a photo of this one, and the one above I got from a Google search. This new billboard really broke my heart. I’m paraphrasing here, but I think I have it pretty close: “Percy lost his battle with cancer. Age 7. Thanks for all of your prayers.”

Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!

I was not expecting to see that particular message. The logical part of my mind asserted that such a thing shouldn’t be a surprise, but the emotional part of my mind was saddened and disappointed. After I got home, I wanted to know more. Another Google search revealed that this child was Percy Hayes, suffering from “undifferentiated abdominal sarcoma.”

I read the article and watched the embedded video from my search and learned that the billboard went up in January. The article was written about the same time. So, it took me seven months to actually research the story behind the billboard. Seven. Months!

I don’t know this child or his family and thus have no real personal connection, other than a billboard. I really have no right to feel sad other than mourning the loss of a child to such a disease. My biggest regret is not researching this sooner, and reaching out to the family and letting them know that strangers such as myself were praying for Percy. It’s too late now, but this would’ve been a great opportunity to have a friend of mine, Mutzie, get involved. He could’ve help spread the word and exponentially increased the prayer circle. Anyway, once I finish this blog and post it, I’ll e-mail the reporter on the story and ask her to forward it to the family. It’s all I can offer at this point.

Rest in peace, Percy. I know you are in a better place, free from this dreaded disease, free from pain and basking in the glory of our Lord.

To Percy’s parents and family, I will keep you in my prayers and ask God to help you through this time. Please know that word did get out.


  1. This is really touching Patrick. I know that billboard but it's been a while since I've been off the island so I didn't know it changed. :( Thanks for posting this.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Heather. It was a tough one to write. As you can tell by my other blogs, I tend to take a light hearted look at things.