3-year-old cancer patient becomes youngest sheriff's deputy in the nation
When you are 3 years old, you should be playing with toys, not stuck in a hospital.
Sadly, Wyatt Schmaltz is sick. Very sick.
"Our doctor came in and said he has Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. It's high risk. Very aggressive stage of his cancer," said Wyatt's mom April Schmaltz.
"Neuroblastoma is a tumor that's actually fairly common in children of Wyatt's age. It's one that originates in the nervous system," said Dr. Jake Zucker from Riley Hospital for Children. "Stage 4 means that it's not localized to one spot. It's got a couple of different places in his body that it's been found. Stage 4 of neuroblastoma is a tough tumor to have. However, we have a lot of people that have done a lot of research and worked hard at protocols. Wyatt's on a protocol that will last about a year. He'll get some pretty intense chemotherapy but the outcomes overall in pediatric oncology have come a long way in the last 20 years."
The diagnosis staggered his family.
"I've cried in front of him before. And then of course, he comes back with mommy, why are you crying? Why are you sad? And he doesn't quite understand," said Schmaltz. "Yesterday was the hardest. For the first time ever, he looked at the nurse downstairs and said I have cancer. That's the first time he's ever voiced that since he's been diagnosed. That was probably the hardest thing for me. He's never voiced it before. For him to be 3 years old and know that word, that should not be part of his vocabulary ever, adult or child."
But Wednesday, good news was coming down the hall. An important man was bringing a special gift.
"We took a uniform shirt that we had and took it to a seamstress and told her what was going on and told her it needed to be this size," said Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel.
The Sheriff of Huntington learned about Wyatt's health challenge and seemed to connect because of his own heartbreak in life.
"I just lost my wife to cancer 1 1/2 years ago. This is a real special moment to me. Real touching and real moving," said Stoffel.
So right there in his hospital bed, Wyatt became part of the law enforcement family.
"We are going to swear you in as a special deputy at the Huntington County Sheriff's Department," Stoffel told the young boy.
With that, this 3-year-old became the youngest deputy in the nation. He's got the ID and badge to prove it. Plus he already knows how to salute.
"This is your shirt to keep forever and this is yours. You get to have that. When you go out, you can put this on," said Stoffel.
A young boy may face the challenge of a lifetime but now he is doing so as a deputy.
"He's really an icon for courage and living life to its fullest," said Stoffel. "It's not all about speeding tickets. It's about the big picture. That's why we're here today to help the family. This little boy will support Huntington youth more than he'll ever realize."
"I will cherish until he's old enough to know what's going on. And then he will be able to cherish and tell his children, yeah your daddy was the youngest deputy ever," said April Schmaltz.