ALTON, Ill. (AP) — As the big red ladder truck rounded a corner last week, its screaming siren and flashing lights were not signaling an emergency, but announcing it was on a most special run.
Once on Edwards Street late the morning of Dec. 7, Capt. Jesse Jemison of the Alton Fire Department rolled the big, shiny truck to a hissing stop in front of 4-year-old Jentzen Felt's house.
The child, who underwent his fifth round of in-patient chemotherapy Nov. 30, was more than ready for his treat as firefighter for a day. Jentzen was in his front yard, excitedly hopping from one foot to the next, then jumped straight up and down with a smile on his face when he saw the truck.
"Meet my friend, Chief Bernie Sebold," said Vicky Schiber, who arranged Jentzen's big day.
Sebold kneeled down to the little guy's eye level and handed him his important, white chief's hardhat.
"Can you hold this for me?" Sebold asked him, as Schiber and Jentzen's mother, Stacy Felt, 34, snapped photos. His grandparents, the Rev. Robert and Carol Bolinger of Alton, observed, smiling.
Sebold and Deputy Fire Chief Mark Harris then asked Jentzen whether he wanted to ride in the front or back seat of the truck's cab. The boy chose the latter, and excitedly climbed up the steps, with little help. Once he was strapped into his booster seat facing backward and his mother on board, the ride to Don Twichell Memorial Station 1 was under way.
Jemison took the long way across town, turning on sirens and lights, to Jentzen's delight. Harris said the child "loosened up," got chatty and had lots of questions along the way, including about various knobs and buttons inside the truck's cab.
"He is fascinated with firetrucks, and he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up," Stacy Felt said.
She said in August, doctors discovered her son has a rare, yolk sac tumor on the coccyx in his sacral, on the lower spine. The family's Facebook prayer page (Jentzen miracle) says the malignant tumor had grown 6 inches upward and had a drainage stent installed, because the tumor was resting on a kidney.
Jentzen has been receiving chemotherapy at St. Louis Children's Hospital, each time requiring a five-day stay. He is scheduled soon for a PET (positron emission tomography) nuclear imaging scan to determine how well the chemotherapy is working and to determine any future treatment.