Pietro Pellerito, 11, of Washington Township, learned he had a brain tumor the week before a school math competition called Math 24.
He couldn’t bear the thought of missing it.
He asked his neurosurgeon at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital if he could delay the surgery until after, says his mom, Miriam Pellerito.
“The doctor said ‘no’ but he made him a deal that if he was doing well the day before the competition, he would allow him to be discharged from the hospital,” she said.
Pietro made sure it happened.
Hugh Garton, a neurosurgeon at C.S. Mott, kept his part of the deal and discharged Pietro just five days after his surgery — also the day prior to the competition — which he won on Jan. 28. He went to a state competition following that, and he won first place there, too.
“He was like 200 points ahead of everyone,” says his mom. “We are so proud of his determination and desire to compete and perform.”
Pietro continued to go to school during treatment and ended up with straight As, despite missing weeks of school.
Fast forward to today. Pietro has completed radiation treatment and is a third of the way through chemotherapy, which ends in March.
He starts middle school at Holy Family Regional School in Rochester on Sept. 7.
But before he goes to school, he has a special appointment at the 21st Motor City Golf Classic on Monday, Aug. 9, at the Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor. There, he will receive the the Young Heroes Medal of Honor, a program of the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard.
Since the UM Neurosurgery Department partnered with the golf tournament in 2006, the event has raised $200,000 for Department of Neurosurgery programs. It has funded programs like the Brachial Plexus Day Camp for Children, a brain aneurysm support group for patients and families, neurosurgical residents teaching and mentoring in metro Detroit classrooms, research to develop therapies and treatment for brain tumors and stroke, and a DVD on diving injury prevention called “Shattered Dreams,” which has won three national awards.
Pietro’s award ceremony will resemble a military ceremony. A citation will be read to accompany the medal and Pietro will receive a certificate and a formal salute from military members, to convey the military’s respect for the honored young heroes who fight unseen enemies.
But that’s not it for Pietro. St. Baldrick’s, an organization that raises money for childhood cancer research, has asked Pietro to be an ambassador for their program, which he has accepted.
“He’s a real cerebral kid,” his mom says. “He enjoys things where he has to sit down and figure things out. We’re extremely proud. He’s going to come out of this a much stronger person. We do know that there’s a reason. He may grow up to be a neurosurgeon. He talks about it. There will be a positive out of the negative.”
For more information about the Motor City Golf Classic, contact Steve Napolitan (734-232-4846) or Don Tomford (734-936-5776) at the UM Department of Neurosurgery.
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