A Florida Two-year-old named Oliver suffers from a heart defect that led to brain damage.
As an infant, doctors didn't give Oliver De Borde long to live after he suffered severe brain damage due to a congenital heart defect. But two years later, the little Ocala boy continues to brighten the lives of his parents.
Recently, however, during a trip provided by Make-A-Wish of Central and North Florida, the family had their luggage and the stroller shared by Oliver and his baby brother, Grayson, stolen.
"I couldn't believe it. We had a very nice trip, got a lot of souvenirs, and on the way back we had everything stolen," said Beth Stimson, Oliver's mother.
Because of Oliver's condition, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that left him with a malformed left side of his heart, Stimson packs extra clothing for trips in case of emergency.
"It hurts because of what it will cost to replace the clothes, but because of his condition, everything of his is special to me," Stimson said.
When Oliver was only 2 months old, his heart stopped. Doctors were able to revive him, but the episode left him with significant brain damage. Because of the brain injury, Oliver no longer qualified for further procedures, including the possibility of a heart transplant. He went home under hospice care.
"They said he would probably only live a few weeks. We celebrated his birthday early, had Christmas in July for him, thinking he wouldn't be with us," Stimson said.
However, the little boy beat the odds, and two years later continues his journey.
"Days kept mounting up, and he kept going and hasn't stopped," said Justin De Borde, Oliver's father.
But eventually, the little boy will succumb to the affliction. In the meantime, Stimson and De Borde try to cherish every moment with the boy.
"We try to turn the negatives into positives. That's kind of our motto," Stimson said.
After they sought a second opinion on Oliver's condition in Boston in 2017 and got a similar prognosis, they turned the trip into a family vacation.
"We went to New York with him and then Washington, D.C., on the way back," De Borde said.
The family has photos of the boy in front of the Statue of Liberty, among other landmarks.
While the stolen items put a damper on the latest trip, they would rather focus on the memories they made in Tennessee.
Oliver and his father enjoy watching University of Tennessee football games together. While the boy cannot walk or talk, he does react to certain stimulation, including his father tickling his belly while humming the "Jaws" theme. The sounds of the football games and his father's reaction also elicit reactions from Oliver.
So, one of the main stops on the trip was a tour of Neyland Stadium, where the Volunteers play in Knoxville.
The thieves took University of Tennessee memorabilia bought for Oliver during the tour, including a bright orange "onesie" with the team's logo.
The theft happened on the last day of the trip as they drove back to Ocala. The family stopped in a Ramada by Wyndham off the interstate in Macon, Georgia, to spend the night.
The couple left most of their luggage in the trunk of the car. They speculate the trunk did not property close because there was no damage to the rental vehicle and nothing inside the vehicle, which was locked, was taken.
While security video of the parking lot did not capture a clear view of the theft, other angles spotted a dark-colored, possibly red, sport utility vehicle entering the parking lot just before 2 a.m.
The family filed a report with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office, but thefts are common at the hotels along the heavily traveled corridor.
"Thank goodness we brought in his medical stuff, his feeding pump and medication and oxygen tubes," Stimson said.
The couple set up a GoFundMe campaign to try and raise the $800 they estimate it will take to replace the stolen items. As of Wednesday evening, the campaign had raised $820.
For information on the campaign visit https://tinyurl.com/y3m8gg6u
Contact Carlos E. Medina at 867-4157 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This story originally published to ocala.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.