By Eileen Frere
ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) — Wyatt Gillette’s smile lights up his parents’ spirits.
“He knows when people are feeling down and he changes their attitude with a smile,” said Wyatt’s father, Jeremiah, 29, a U.S. Marine drill instructor.
He first set eyes on his son when he returned from serving in Iraq nearly 8 years ago.
“When I arrived back, I had maybe two weeks of normalcy, if you can call it that, and he became real irritable,” recalled Jeremiah.
Doctors tried to figure out what was wrong, as Wyatt regressed. Despite all the hospital visits, Wyatt kept a positive attitude – doing what he loved to do.
“He loves his bike, he loves the sounds of kisses, he loves doing crafts,” said his mother Felishia, 27.
It took 4 years before Wyatt was properly diagnosed with Aicardi-Goutierres Syndrome Type 1-(Trex 1 mutation) a rare condition causing multiple problems from seizures to kidney failure. He needs more than 15 medications a day.
“He’s doing daily dialysis because he’s in complete kidney failure,” said Felishia, as she stood by Wyatt’s hospital bed at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange. “Both the kidneys are in complete total failure. They’re 0 percent.”
“He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met,” said Jeremiah. “He’s the toughest person I’ve ever met.”
As Wyatt was fighting for his life Jeremiah turned online to fellow Marines, asking for prayers.
The response was unexpected.
“I just started crying,” recalled Felishia. “So many people and strangers took an interest.”
We learned about Wyatt’s story from a viewer using #abc7eyewitness. That led us to a Change.org petition asking for Wyatt to become an “Honorary Marine.” More than 2,500 people, mainly Marines, have signed it.
Here is the petition.
“That would mean the world to me,” Jeremiah said. “I’ve had two goals in my lifetime – to be a Marine and to be a drill instructor. If he was a normal child, he’s just got that spirit that I think he would have joined the Marine Corps as well.”
Authorities say earning the title of Honorary Marine involves a lengthy review. The commandant of the Marine Corps has the final say.
His parents say Wyatt is facing his final fight. He lies in his hospital bed, his eyes barely open. He smiles when his father kisses his forehead and as his mother squeezes a squeaky Sock Monkey toy by his face.
He’s expected to return home this week on hospice care.
Jeremiah says Wyatt has five to 14 days left.
“It’s going to be difficult because no parent wants to say goodbye to their kid,” said Felishia.
They cherish the time that’s left, knowing he’s already touched so many.
“He’s taught me love. He’s taught me to see the good in people,” said Jeremiah.
More information about becoming an Honorary Marine is available on the USMC website.