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The Kansas City Star: A cancer survivor, Chiefs’ Mike Pennel returns to the place that ‘saved my life’

By Sam McDowell

Before Mike Pennel left the house, his mother would spread a Lidocaine ointment onto his chest, numbing the skin so that when doctors stuck a port in her baby boy, he wouldn’t cry.

The chemotherapy program stretched a year and a half. Eighteen months of driving back and forth from Topeka to Children’s Mercy Hospital in downtown Kansas City, where nurses would hook Pennel up to an IV for four-hour sessions, and he’d flip on the TV and watch a purple dinosaur sing.

On Monday, some 25 years later, Pennel strolled through those same hospital doors, this time a visitor rather than a patient. Now a hulking Chiefs defensive lineman, he returned to the place forever etched into his memory. To the setting of the first thing he thinks about each and every morning.

He arrived gripping a sack of toys in one hand and a bag of them strapped over the opposite shoulder. Video game controllers in the plastic sack. Board games in the enlarged gym bag.

He took the elevator to the second floor. Kids receiving dialysis treatments were waiting for him. Moments before he entered their room, he stopped briefly, outlined a religious cross on his chest where the port once entered and pointed upward.

After half an hour, as Pennel finished speaking with a young patient, he turned around.

“Oh, my God,” he said. “Look who it is.”

In the hallway stood a longtime longtime doctor at Children’s Mercy, Alan Gamis. Pennel pointed him out to his mom, Terri, but quickly realized she had already spotted him, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“That man saved my life,” Pennel says. “You know, I’m not supposed to be here right now.”


Read the full story via The Kansas City Star

Learn more about the Cancer Center at Children's Mercy

Learn more about The Division of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation at Children's Mercy.