A Cabot family is back home after more than three months in Jerusalem. Dakota Hawkins, 14, and his family went there so he could be treated for a rare blood cancer.
After hospitals in the U.S. exhausted treatment options, the Hawkins found out about a procedure in the Middle East not approved by the FDA. Two weeks ago we told you Dakota was suffering complications, but doctors finally decided he was strong enough to make the trip home.
Dakota underwent cell transplants that fought the leukemia. His mom and brother were the donors. And the results, they say, can only be called a miracle. Today Dakota is cancer free.
But friends and family wouldn't rest until they saw Dakota themselves. They waited at Little Rock National Airport Thursday evening.
His cousin, Bethany Cameron says, "I don't want to let go when I see them, I’m just so excited.”
“It feels like part of our hearts has been missing. It's been the longest three and a half months in our lives,” adds Dakota’s aunt, Donna Cameron. Dakota's cancer treatment came with no guarantee, so the reunion is an emotional one.
It took the Hawkins 24 hours to get home from Jerusalem. But Dakota’s been on the journey to recovery more than three years.
Dakota’s uncle, Larry Hawkins, says "He just looks so good, the whole family does. It's amazing! It's so good to have them home, and as you can see, they have some support.”
That show of support is overwhelming to Dakota. He says, "I couldn't believe it. I didn't think there'd be this many people here, but I was excited to see everybody."
The group that showed up at the airport represents a much larger support system. Many in Dakota’s hometown of Cabot raised money for his treatment.
His mom, Sharon Hawkins, says "I know that many prayers have gone up for Dakota and for his brother Riley and for our entire family and we would just like to take the opportunity to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts."
Dakota’s dad, Henry Hawkins, adds, "We went over with cancer and we're back with no cancer. That’s why we went, and Dakota's healed."
There's still a battle going on in Dakota’s body. He's fighting lung infection. But that's a sign the cell transplant worked.
Dakota says, "I'll never take my home for granted anymore, definitely for that and health will never be taken for granted again and just thank God for my little brother and my family."
His cousin, Karen East, says, "They stood together no matter what. They did this as a team and they're home as a team and that's the greatest gift we could ever ask for."
Dakota will continue to see doctors and may need to return to Israel for one more cell transplant. The family also expressed disappointment the treatment that saved Dakota’s life is not approved by the FDA. It took hundreds of thousands of dollars for the family to travel to Jerusalem and get the procedure done. They are thankful to the community in Cabot who helped raise that money.