A surgical mask couldn’t hide Johnathan Rubio’s beaming smile as he slipped a firefighter helmet on his bald head and boarded a North Las Vegas fire engine.
The 16-year-old junior from Bonanza High School was treated to a hero’s ride home Tuesday afternoon after undergoing five weeks of intensive treatment for leukemia at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center.
“I’ve always wanted to aspire to be better and help other people,” said Rubio, who has participated over the past two years in the North Las Vegas Fire Explorer Program.
“I didn’t expect this,” Rubio said. “But it’s really nice.”
Rubio was diagnosed with leukemia on Nov. 29 and started treatment within three days because his doctors “were afraid of losing him,” said his mother, Lori Harrison.
The teenager said he was admitted to the hospital five weeks ago due to a loss of appetite caused by sores in his esophagus, leading to rapid weight loss. He underwent a bone marrow biopsy on Monday and hopes to have a transplant within the year.
“It’s been a very hard thing to go through,” Harrison said. “To find out your 16-year-old son is going in for a fever and then getting told that he has leukemia is hard. Everything happened so fast.”
North Las Vegas firefighters have offered their help to Rubio since his diagnosis, leading to the escorted ride home aboard an oversized rig, Capt. Cedric Williams said.
“He’s one of us. He’s one of our Explorers,” Williams said. “As one of our family members, we’re just here to support him and encourage him and make sure he’s not in this alone.”
Contact Art Marroquin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.
How to help
Johnathan Rubio’s family created a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising money to help pay for his hospital expenses. As of Tuesday afternoon, the family had raised $640 with a $1,000 goal for the page, “Stand by Johnathan Rubio, B-ALL.”