Durham, North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C.—A brisk day in North Carolina. A little overcast. Chilly outside. But you don’t know much about the weather because you are a 10-year-old boy, stuck on the fifth floor of Duke Hospital. You have myeloid leukemia.

You’re name is Reese Loggins. You are a fourth-grader. Bald. You have a few whisps of hair left after treatments. A perpetual smile. Some freckles, but not too many.

A nurse brings lunch on a tray.

“Reese,” your mother says. “What do you say to the nurse?”

So you tell the nurse, “Thank you.”

Parents are always doing this. They always remind you to say stuff like “yes sir,” “no ma’am,” “yes please,” and “thank you.”

And you say these words a lot because Duke Hospital, which is your home right now, is a madhouse. Everyone is working overtime. Over-overtime, actually. Nurses, doctors, techs, custodial staff, cafeteria workers. Everyone is slaving themselves to the bone because this is a “pandemic.”

The last place anyone wants to be during a worldwide healthcare crisis is a hospital. Medical professionals have it hard right now. Because the whole world always expects them to “do” something. And if they can’t do it, well, find someone who can.

And it’s not just Duke. North Carolina is no day at the beach right now. Experts projected that North Carolina’s coronavirus crisis will peak at the end of April. Estimates say the state will be 862 hospital beds, 625 ICU beds, and 954 ventilators short of what they’ll need to treat patients.

So the place is flat nuts. Doctors are working themselves silly. Medical workers are following strict, almost unimaginable protocols when it comes to cross-contamination. Throughout the hospital, medical staffers are constantly stripping off gowns, replacing gloves, goggles, visors, facemasks, and powered purifying respirators.

It’s like a scene from a science fiction movie. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what Duke feels like right now. A very big budget sci-fi movie.

Nurses pull odd hours. Doctors live on vending machine food. And even though North Carolina is a mess, this is Duke University Hospital. If anyone knows how to meet a challenge, it’s these guys.

But you don’t spend too much time thinking about this stuff because, like I said earlier, you’re a kid. Furthermore, you’re pretty tired from all the cancer treatments.

You’ve been stuck here for awhile. You just had a bone marrow transplant. You have been living in this room for so long you forgot what the outside world looked like. Then this coronavirus thing hit, and the whole world went nuts.

Doctors say you’ll be released later this summer. You are crossing your fingers.

Mostly, you just sit by your window, watching the construction outside. There’s a lot of it. Every day, you watch men in neon vests and hardhats operate heavy machinery, making loud noise.

It’s great. You love watching them because you’re a male. And males like big, loud machines. This obsession does not go away once you get older. It just gets more expensive.

But something is weird today, construction-wise. It’s a quiet outside. You glance out the window to see all the workers facing your room. Each one of them. Looking right at you.

What are they doing?

You hear a beeping noise. It’s the crane. The huge, yellow, awe inspiring machine that’s been lifting AC units and piles of debris, day in and day out. It’s carrying something different this time.

When you’re a kid stuck in the pediatric oncology unit, you live for things like cranes.


What’s going on out there? What’s the crane lifting? You can’t quite see it. It’s too far away.

Then you hear something else. Is that a song? Wait a minute, are the construction workers SINGING?

No way. This can’t be. You squint your eyes. You can’t see their mouths moving since they all wear surgical masks, but you can almost swear they are singing. So you listen carefully.


They are all looking straight at you and singing: “Happy birthday, dear Reese…”

That’s when your mother gasps. She points through the window to the crane, which is carrying something suspended by ropes.

“Look!” your mother says. “It’s a bike!”

A bike? What? You hardly believe it. But she’s right. It’s a bike. You watch it sail through the air toward your window.

Then you hear more voices. Lots of them. You see that your room is full of nurses. A whole crowd of them, standing amidst the lit-up machines, tubes, and medical computers. Men and women in scrubs, all singing to you.

“Happy birthday, dear Reese…”

You’re not really sure what to do here. I mean, it’s a little embarrassing. What DOES a kid do in a situation like this? Take a bow? Make a speech?

So you look out the window again. Now the bike is dangling in front of your window. You count almost 60 blue-collar men singing. They stand before a huge hand-painted sign hanging on the jobsite. It reads: “Happy Birthday Reese!”

You see your father standing outside among the workers. Singing his guts out.

The song finishes and everyone starts applauding. Loudly. The nurses, medical staffers, doctors, the construction men, your parents. Everyone is clapping. For you. It’s your 10th birthday, and you never knew you had so many friends.

Your mother points out the window at the swinging bicycle again. “What do you say, Reese?”

Thank you. That’s what you say. Thank you.


  1. Grant Burris - April 23, 2020 7:04 am

    That was a terrific story, Sean. Just for a few minutes Reese was not a cancer patient. Just a happy 10 year old searching for the right words to express himself.

  2. Jasm Elliot - April 23, 2020 8:08 am

    Thanks for the article. Your pieces are uplifting. You bring a smile and a thought for the day

  3. Kristin Quimby - April 23, 2020 10:22 am

    Happy 10th Birthday, Reese Loggins! Thankful for selfless people who took the time to give a special boy a moment of normalcy in what is the biggest challenge of his young life. Hopefully the endless minutes, hours, days, and weeks with scary challenges will eventually fade in his memory, or most of them, but he will always remember this. And so will his mom. Thank you, Sean, for another touching story. I look forward to your daily post!
    From a fan in snowy Vermont and 6.4 year post stem cell transplant survivor from acute myeloid leukemia.

  4. Sharon Lawson - April 23, 2020 10:26 am

    Just beautifull! Thank you.

  5. SpringfieldWoods - April 23, 2020 11:39 am

    You did it again, Sean. Well done. Thank you.

  6. Elizabeth - April 23, 2020 11:39 am

    Dang watered down coffee again!

  7. Charles Vianey - April 23, 2020 11:43 am

    Sean, thank you for telling stories we need to hear. People caring for others, being kind. We need to hear them. Maybe we will learn from them.

  8. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 23, 2020 11:56 am

    Happy birthday, Reese! We want pictures when you ride that bike.

  9. Sandi. - April 23, 2020 12:08 pm

    Happy 10th Birthday to Reese! I’m betting that the first thing he does after being released from the hospital is to hop on his new bike and ride until his legs cannot peddle any further! Next day: Repeat.

  10. Phil S. - April 23, 2020 12:10 pm

    And what do we all say to you, Sean? Hmm…oh, yeah! THANK YOU!!
    BTW, just said a prayer for Reese, his family, and all the people, inside and out, at Duke Hospital.

  11. Tom - April 23, 2020 12:10 pm

    Oh No!, it must be rain drops, cause a man ain’t supposed to cry. You got me in the ol’ pump again. Happy Birthday Reese – praying for you.

  12. Linnea Miles - April 23, 2020 12:20 pm

    Happy 10th Birthday Reese!! You’re the man!! Three and a half years ago, my precious granddaughter, Luna Grace, had life-saving, very complex heart surgery at 2 days old at Duke. We knew for months that it was coming, but there’s no way to prepare. Dr. Andrew Lodge is a hero. I was never so afraid in my life. Luna spent 3 months in NICU with countless tubes and machines filling the room. Countless prayers and parents who were by her side constantly. She’s a princess warrior who gets flying colors reports from her cardiologist. Even though we’re a family of die hard Carolina blue supporters, I’ll always be thankful 💙 to Duke for giving life to this adorable, vivacious little girl. Thank you,Sean,for this story of amazing Reese! And his Southern mama and proud dad.

  13. Marilyn Warner - April 23, 2020 12:26 pm

    How is it possible to cry and smile at the same time? Thank you, Sean!

  14. Stephanie - April 23, 2020 12:29 pm

    This was beautiful. Full stop.

  15. Debbie - April 23, 2020 12:43 pm

    Precious story, Sean! Thank you for sharing it!

  16. Betty F. - April 23, 2020 12:46 pm

    I am flat out bawling… good tears. Thank you for bringing that story to life for us.

  17. Jan - April 23, 2020 12:49 pm

    Spectacular story! Oh, what love can accomplish! Thank you, Sean, and thank you to all those people who made this story happen!

  18. Jo Ann - April 23, 2020 12:49 pm

    What a lovely thing all these people did. They took the time out of their busy, busy day to wish Reese happy birthday. I’m sure it made their hearts happy at least for a little while. Thank you, Duke medical staff & the construction crew, & thanks Sean.

  19. Eddy - April 23, 2020 1:04 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for putting things in perspective. God Bless Reese and God Speed his recovery. Also God Bless and protect those on the front lines around this world.

  20. Lita - April 23, 2020 1:04 pm

    I’m crying. xx

  21. Bill - April 23, 2020 1:04 pm

    My allergies must be acting up, towards the end there my eyes got all teared up and blurry and I was almost having to gasp for air…

    Happy Birthday Reese!

  22. Connie Havard Ryland - April 23, 2020 1:09 pm

    Happy birthday Reese. I hope nobody walks in my office right now. I couldn’t speak past the lump in my throat.

  23. Patricia A Schmaltz - April 23, 2020 1:11 pm

    .. and now I”m crying. Thank you Sean. And thank you Reese! Happy Birthday, and be sure to wear a helmet.

  24. Sondra - April 23, 2020 1:12 pm

    Thank you!!!

  25. Madelyn H. Tremblay - April 23, 2020 1:13 pm

    Thank you Sean for that heart-warming story. How great that people came together to
    help celebrate Reese’s 10th birthday and relieve the seriousness of his situation for a
    memorable experience of well-deserved recognition.

  26. Barb - April 23, 2020 1:19 pm

    A little humanity goes a long way! I cried and have a big lump in my throat. Thank you Sean! Happy Birthday Reese!

  27. Bobbie E - April 23, 2020 1:36 pm

    God bless you Reese! Wishing you a happy life. I pray the rest of your years will more than make up for the first ten! Thanks again Sean. Your gift of writing is an inspiration. I also look forward to reading all the comments. So many beautiful kind people out there….God bless you all ❤️

  28. D Moore - April 23, 2020 1:43 pm

    Omw Sean….Amazing Grace!!

  29. Ella Herlihy - April 23, 2020 1:48 pm

    Happy Birthday Reese!! Come join us at Blue Skies this summer. We have a beach retreat for kids like you to bring their whole family for a week of fun!! (We have a fall retreat too in case your Dr won’t let you come this summer). Our retreat is full of laughter and beach time and pool games and parties. Just like the hospital – only different!! 🎉🎉🎉
    Tell your parents to check it out. And tell your friends in the hospital too. We want all the families kicking cancer’s butt to come join us!! And for all your friends and family who wish they could do something to help, tell them we have a place for them too! It takes about 60 volunteers to put on each retreat, so have everyone go to http://www.blueskiesministries.org and check it out.

    Hope to see you at the beach soon!

  30. Marc Beaver - April 23, 2020 1:59 pm

    About as heart-warming as it can get, Sean. Thanks.

  31. Jim Thomssen - April 23, 2020 2:02 pm

    So I guess crying is therapeutic! Thanks for sharing Sean.

  32. Judith A Mercer - April 23, 2020 2:18 pm

    There are specials angels that walk among us, and a very special angel that goes by the name of Sean who reminds us each day about those angels.
    Thank you, Sean.

  33. Joe Patterson - April 23, 2020 2:29 pm


  34. Robert M Brenner - April 23, 2020 2:31 pm

    I was crying before I even knew what was happening! I can attest to the medical professionals and staff at Duke. I needed a surgery to install a IVAD heart pump and it was done at Duke. I’m here today because of this fantastic institution. I never felt more cared for than the two months I was there. One last thing, “Happy Birthday Reese”, you’ll be riding that bike sooner than you think. Also, Sean thank you so very much for sharing these stories of such extraordinary people.

  35. Ala Red Clay Girl - April 23, 2020 2:40 pm

    This story definitely puts life into perspective. God bless Reese and all the children (and adults) and their families who are in the hospital during this crazy time. Also a big thank you for all the front-line workers out there who are trying to keep our lives as normal as possible.

  36. Donna - April 23, 2020 2:45 pm

    Tears streaming. Forwarding this to my incredible niece who is a pediatric critical care Dr. at that hospital.

  37. Johnnie Blackburn - April 23, 2020 2:46 pm

    Sean, you don’t write stories. You write life. Thanks for reminding us to live life and think of others and be nice and wash our hands. 🙂

  38. Margaret Cade - April 23, 2020 3:03 pm

    Happy birthday Reese! You are a very special little boy who has many people who love you! I hope your mom is reading this to you today! May the summer bring you many sunny days riding your bicycle! Thank you Sean. ❤️🎂🚴‍♂️

  39. Barbara Pope - April 23, 2020 3:08 pm

    Praying Reese gets to feel the wind through those few strands of hair as he glides down his home street on his new bike.

  40. Nancy Payne - April 23, 2020 3:31 pm

    This just touched my heart and soul! Humanity still has hearts and souls that praise and sing God and Living.

  41. Norman Anderson - April 23, 2020 3:41 pm

    Thank YOU Sean!

  42. Ann - April 23, 2020 3:47 pm

    Whew… heart wrenching and heartwarming all at the same time…
    happy birthday Reese… and many thanks 👏🏻👏🏻To those beautiful people and Sean for passing this on!

  43. Gloria - April 23, 2020 4:36 pm

    Sean, you have a way of causing our tears to run freely and our hearts to swell with love for people who treat ill children with such tenderness whether they are the medical staff or the construction workers outside. God bless them all and Reese especially. Happy birthday Reese!❤️

  44. Linda Moon - April 23, 2020 5:03 pm

    I’ve posted these words before and now again: Childhood Cancer – the worst kind. Yesterday I saw lots of medical professionals slaving selflessly. It was just as you described, Sean….like a movie. But the reality of their hard work wasn’t lost or unappreciated – I can promise you that. I know a couple of older males who like big machines. I love the men and tolerate their machines, so I can just imagine how much Reese loved seeing those guys outside his window! Thank you for sharing Reese Loggins with us, Sean. I will pass his name on to my many praying Angels.

  45. Mary - April 23, 2020 5:08 pm

    So heart rending. It brings tears to my eyes. THANK YOU!Screamed si you can hear it over the cranes and singingm

  46. GARY - April 23, 2020 5:21 pm

    WOW !!!

  47. Bob Galloway - April 23, 2020 5:52 pm

    I would love to start a card/prayer campaign for Reese if his parents would let you share his mailing address, or his home church address, or some other neutral access. My daughter spent 18 months of “living with Leukemia” before her departure and it was amazing how wide spread were cards that had no 1st or 2nsd level connection with our family. Lets give Reese the support he and his folks/nurses/doctors need.

  48. Mary Bean - April 23, 2020 5:58 pm

    Happpppppy Birthday Reece!!!!!

  49. Judy - April 23, 2020 5:59 pm

    Terrible time to be short on tissues…Sean you always put life in perpsective, write what really matters and show the goodness in folks. Now I have to blow my nose on my sleeve…

  50. kaye elmore - April 23, 2020 6:09 pm

    Happy Birthday, Reese. May God hold you close and protect you and your parents during this time. Thank you, Sean.

  51. Sheila Ahler - April 23, 2020 6:10 pm

    I’m an Alabama gal living in Apex NC and attending Duke Divinity as part of an “encore” career.
    We love the Duke institution – and the hospital is an amazing place.
    I love your posts – a little bit of home every morning!
    Thank you for sharing your stories, your live, with us.
    Stay safe – keep writing!

  52. turtlekid - April 23, 2020 6:17 pm

    Tears!!!! Love abounds in spite of everything.

  53. Sylvia Holt - April 23, 2020 6:23 pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

  54. Judy Riley - April 23, 2020 6:48 pm

    Chill bump story!! Thank you!!!

  55. Buddy - April 23, 2020 7:47 pm

    You like making a Grown Man Cry dont You!

  56. catladymac - April 23, 2020 8:23 pm

    And every -EVERY-one of them was praying that Reese WILL get out of the hospital this Summer and be able to ride the living hell out of that bike !

  57. Jones - April 23, 2020 11:17 pm

    Very neat… thanks for sharing.

  58. David Doom - April 24, 2020 3:07 am

    I am in my mid seventies, an age where people say “My memory isn’t what it use to be.” I am not sure my memory was ever what it use to be. As a kid my mother gave me that look and said,”What do you say?” I knew I had three possible answers. Please, Thank you, and in my case it was usually, I’m sorry.

  59. Christina - April 24, 2020 5:04 am

    This melts my heart💕

  60. Jean hammons - April 24, 2020 7:53 pm

    Wow! Thanks whoever went to all that.trouble for this young man! Happy Birthday Reese!

  61. GeorgeWinfield - April 24, 2020 8:55 pm

    Now I’m crying.

  62. Steve Winfield [Lifer] - April 24, 2020 8:56 pm

    Now I’m crying.

  63. Melanie - April 25, 2020 1:07 pm

    Happy Birthday Reese! You’ll be on your new bike in no time! 🚲👈🏻👍🏻👏🏻🙌🏻😃❤️

  64. Mary - April 27, 2020 9:55 pm

    Dadgum, Sean! I just put new contacts in this morning and then read this and got them all gooey. Great story! I’m sure Reese will long remember his 10th birthday!

  65. Nancy Paynd - June 2, 2020 3:53 am

    Happy Birthday Reese! I hope you ride that bike until you need a new set of wheels.

  66. Michelle Loggins - June 18, 2020 12:10 pm

    Six year survivor? That’s great! I wasn’t sure if there really were any. Thank you for your words and birthday wish to my son. He was a fan of Vermont and a bigger one of snow. I took him last year after his bell ringing to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory to sew up a bear with me. He named his Leo. Leo was with him to the end.
    Thank you for sharing.


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