Melting Hearts

Tara Bradbury
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Deon Oram, Paul and Merri-Lee Motley-Oram at the Janeway hospital in St. John's this week

Christine Martin of Paradise is, you might say, a sweetheart.            A chocolate heart, to be exact.

Martin operates a home-based business, Delicious Delights, hand-making and selling chocolate lollipops for birthday parties, baby showers and other events. She’s had the small company for about three years, and operates solely through a group page on Facebook.

“I just did it for my son’s birthday one year, and went from there,” Martin explained.

A mom of four children aged eight and under, Martin uses her Facebook page not only to earn money for herself, but for people in need — people she has never even met.

Earlier this month, Martin’s sister-in-law told her about three-year-old Paul Oram, a little boy from Glovertown diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.

Paul had been fine until late in January. He developed what his parents first thought might have been the flu, until he started slurring his speech.

“He asked for medicine, and he would never do that,” said his dad, Deon Oram. “We gave him some Tylenol and made an appointment with the doctor.”

Not long after that, Paul’s grandmother, while babysitting one day, noticed a lump in his throat.

Deon and his wife, Merri-Lee Motley-Oram, took Paul to the doctor, who said his tonsils and adenoids were probably infected, and he would likely have to get them removed.

“The doctor told us we could get a second opinion if we wanted, and we did,” Deon explained.

The Orams brought Paul to the Janeway, where he saw an ear, nose and throat specialist and was booked for emergency surgery to have his tonsils and adenoids removed.

“The surgeon came out afterwards and said, ‘Of the 5,000 tonsil surgeries I’ve done, I haven’t seen anything like it,’” Deon said. “That was on a Friday, and they had sent tissue samples away for testing. On Saturday they took us into a room and told us he had Burkitt’s lymphoma. I looked at my wife and said, ‘What the heck does that mean?’ She said, ‘Cancer.’

“I didn’t think a grown man or a grown woman could cry themselves dry, but we did.”

The cancerous lump was so fast-growing, the Orams were told, if they had waited another two weeks to bring him to the Janeway, it would have been noticeable on his neck, through his skin.

The lump was removed Feb. 8 and Paul was started on chemo­therapy two weeks later.

The first cycle was rough, Merri-Lee said, and Paul often cried, telling his parents he didn’t want any more medicine.

“How can you explain cancer to a three-year-old? You can’t,” Merri-Lee said. “We just told him there are cancer bugs in his body and we need to get rid of the bugs. I knew he was going to lose his hair, so I shaved his and his dad’s heads. He’s our brave space ranger.”

Today, Paul is receiving the second of four rounds of chemo, and things are easier this round. He’s missing most of his hair, apart from some small patches, and seems to understand, to some degree, what’s happening.

“I want to go home to see (my cat),” he told The Telegram, looking up from playing with his Buzz Lightyear doll. “But I can’t go yet, until I’m better.”

The Oram family has been living at Ronald McDonald House in

St. John’s since Paul’s diagnosis. The house has been a godsend, they say.

However, the bills at home, where they have a 15-year-old daughter, are coming in as usual, and they’re both taking time away from their jobs to be with Paul. Paul’s medications alone cost hundreds of dollars at a time.

Martin, upon hearing about Paul, took to Facebook.

“My first reaction was I wanted to make a personal donation, but then I thought that was just not good enough,” she said.

“Part of the benefit of Facebook is all the connections you make, and I hit every group I could find, and sent out emails left, right and centre.

“You couldn’t have kids of your own and this story not tug at your heartstrings.”

Martin managed to get more than 200 items donated by different businesses and individuals, ranging from clothes and jewelry to gift certificates for services.

With the help of her sister-in-law, she held an auction last week on the Delicious Delights Facebook pages, with all money raised going to the Oram family.

Her husband, Patrick, offered to shave his own head if he could raise $100 in donations — which he did.

Most auction winners rounded up their bid, Martin said, and others who didn’t win donated money anyway.

When it was all said and done, more than $5,000 was pledged.

Martin is still in the process of collecting the money, and she hopes to hand the majority to the Orams this weekend — when she will meet them for the first time.

She can’t really explain her compulsion to help the family, other than that it hit close to home for her.

Her father had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and went through a lot, she explained.

“It was just something I feel like I’ve got to do. I’m not doing anything, really. I’m just putting it out there,” said Martin — who declined to have her picture taken by The Telegram, saying she’d rather the focus be on Paul and his family. “I credit it all to the people who were good enough to donate items, and those who were good enough to bid on them.”

The auction for Paul was the fourth one Martin has organized through her Delicious Delights page: she previously held auctions for two other people receiving extensive medical treatment, as well as to raise money for a family to purchase an autism dog.

The Orams say they are overwhelmed by Martin’s generosity.

“We would never have been able to do it,” Deon said of affording the costs of living and Paul’s medicines while taking time off work. “But we didn’t even think about it at this point. We would be in debt when we got home, but that’s it — we are doing what we have to do for our son.

“It’s proven that Newfoundlanders always come together in times of need. Look at 9-11, for instance. When Newfoundlanders need Newfoundlanders to help, it’s even bigger again. The outpouring of support from all over has been so incredible, words can’t even say. I’m overwhelmed.”

A fundraising event will be held for Paul at the Glovertown Lions Club Thursday beginning at 7 p.m., with a bake sale, silent auction and more than 20 live bands.

Anyone who would like to donate to Paul’s trust account can do so at any Scotiabank branch, using bank number 002, transit number 10983 and account number 0104922.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Ronald McDonald House, Glovertown Lions Club, Scotiabank

Geographic location: Glovertown

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