Grady Wall wants to grow up to be an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper like his uncle. But why wait?

Half a dozen troopers showed up Thursday afternoon to give him an authentic OHP uniform hat and shirt. Then an equal number of Tulsa firefighters presented him with a T-shirt and department badge, just in case the 8-year-old changes his mind and wants to join their ranks someday.

“People call us heroes,” firefighter and paramedic Josh Gibson told Grady. “But we don’t think of ourselves that way.”

A hero is somebody who’s scared but does what needs to be done in spite of the fear, Gibson said.

“Battling cancer is scary, huh? But you’ve been doing it anyway, haven’t you? That makes you a hero.”

A year ago next week, Grady’s parents took him to a doctor thinking he had a problem with his appendix. It turned out to be a tumor in his intestine.

Doctors diagnosed it as desmoplastic small round cell tumors, which often prove resistant to treatment and are notorious for frequently coming back with a vengeance after seeming to go dormant. That is what happened to Grady. And doctors recently told his parents that further treatments wouldn’t be effective. It’s terminal.

“We’re making the most out of every minute we’ve been given,” said his mother, Harmony Wall. “And we want people to know: Don’t take your lives for granted. Love your children. Hug them. Take care of them.”

Gibson, a family friend, asked the department to “do something” for Grady, but it quickly snowballed into a much bigger effort than he imagined, he said.

Two ladder trucks, lights flashing, parked near the main entrance to the Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis, where Grady could see them from a solarium near his room. But he didn’t realize they were there for him until a parade of firefighters and state troopers came down the hallway followed by the local press corps, more than two dozen visitors in all. Grady’s parents invited media to raise awareness about childhood cancer.

“It’s not as rare as people think,” Grady’s mother said, noting that local doctors find new cases every day. “Listen to your kids when they don’t feel good. Take them to the doctor. Don’t just assume it’s nothing.”

Surprised by the hoopla, Grady wore the OHP hat while sitting in a wheelchair with his bare feet poking out beneath a bright red Sooners blanket. With an IV making it hard to change clothes, he simply draped the uniform shirt across his chest and smiled quietly.

“You’ve made his day,” his father, Josh Wall, told the crowd. “And that means everything.”

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Michael Overall


Twitter: @MichaelOverall2

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