Nigel has come a long way in the last three years to become the strong 10-year-old he is today. In 2015, Nigel was having difficulty breathing, so his parents took him to the emergency room. Doctors discovered Nigel had a large tumor in his kidney, also known as a Wilms tumor. Doctors removed Nigel’s kidney, and he endured many round of chemotherapy following the procedure.
Nigel learned his cancer had returned after tests showed he had an elevated white blood count that led to his diagnosis of leukemia, which required a bone marrow transplant; Dr. Ted Moore and his team at UCLA were on top of it. Nigel’s first match for a transplant never materialized, so Nigel’s father stepped up as a haplo match, or half match. As he recovered, Nigel was unable to attend school and lacked the energy to hang out with his friends. Luckily, he could play interactive video games where he could communicate with his friends.
When asked how he processed his diagnosis, Nigel said, “I just try to be positive all the time and stay happy.”
Nigel’s fight, determination and maturity is an inspiration to both UCLA Health and the Lakers family, earning him Laker For A Day honors.
In early October, Nigel was invited to have an exclusive look at the UCLA Health Training Center: Home of the Los Angeles Lakers. The facility is where the Lakers train, practice and hang out when they are not playing games. All of the Lakers staff work out of the building as well.
During the tour, Nigel and his family got to enjoy some time in the office of team owner Jeanie Buss. They were amazed by seeing their own reflection in the 10 NBA championship trophies that line the windows overlooking the practice court. As he prepared to share his story to a video crew, Nigel jokingly said: “I feel like I’m getting ready to be interviewed by Bryant Gumbel.”
Nigel got the full tour of the facility, from the offices to the court. The Lakers even had a special surprise for him. As Nigel walked into the players’ locker room, he saw plaques above each locker that read, [Lebron] James, [Lonzo] Ball, [Kyle] Kuzma, [Rajon] Rondo … and then he saw his last name stitched on one of the jerseys! The Lakers presented Nigel with his own Lakers locker along with the custom uniform so he could truly look the part of a Laker For A Day. He raced to put on the uniform and took the court for a shootaround with his dad, Brian.
At the game, Nigel received an on-court recognition which caught his newest fan’s eye: actor Denzel Washington. As Nigel walked off the court to a standing ovation, Washington asked the UCLA Health Laker For A Day for a picture. Nigel left the arena with more than enough stories to share with his friends at school all week.