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Riding For Love: A Little Boy's Journey to See his Family

March 20, 2019 10:36 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- With Mayo Clinic in our own back yard, it's no surprise, we often share medical stories.   Stories of heartache, of inspiration and stories of hope.   This story is no exception and it starts in the small town of Leroy with a little boy who loves his dad. 

Every Friday when the bell rings, 9-year-old Soren Saterdalen gets picked up outside of his school in Leroy.  But unlike most kids, Soren doesn't ride a typical yellow school bus, instead he gets an express shuttle bus to Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

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During the nearly one hour bus ride, seated right in the front, his hat barely peeking through the railing, Soren patiently waits to see mom and dad.

"You know what kind of cancer he has?" asked Soren.  "Myelodysplastic Syndrome," he quickly added.  Pretty impressive for a third grader.  "I think a couple days ago, he had a fever of 102 degrees and they had to put bags of ice on his arm pits," said Soren

Myelodysplastic Syndrome is the medical term for a rare form of pre- acute leukemia.  His dad Joe, is getting treatment at Mayo Clinic and is currently waiting for a bone marrow transplant.  He has been hospitalized for the past month, meaning the family spends most of their days a part.

"When they told us that if we did nothing, I'd only have a month or two to live, all I could think about what Soren," said Joe.  "He spent three months in the NICU fighting for us, now I have to fight for him."

And its seems Soren feels the same way, talking about his dad to his bus driver Rick Roe. The two, becoming good friends, "what are you doing now?" asked Soren.

Rick, who is also from Leroy, knows the Saterdalen family and in a town of less than one thousand people, it didn't take long before support came rolling in.   "It's just an asset that we have in Leroy and I'm glad we're able to use it this way and Axel offered it," said Pam Saterdalen.

Pam says she was overwhelmed when Leroy Bus Lines offered the family the gift.  The bus line travels into Rochester every day taking employees of Mayo Clinic back and forth.   And Soren would become their youngest passenger.  "Soren gets to ride like a prince all the way into Rochester, he's got the bus all to himself," said Pam.

Traveling once a week so he can spend just a few hours with his dad to help lift his spirits.

"For them to do what they've done, it just refuels my battery, it keeps me fighting," said Joe.  "If my community didn't do it, I couldn't be here, I'd have to go back because it would never work, there's so many little things people are doing whether its just coming to let the dog out for five minutes in the middle of the day when Pam is at work to helping with our horses," added Joe.

"The community that we live in, in the small town, Leroy has stepped up in ways I don't deserve it," said Joe in between tears.

A little town maybe, but one with a big heart.

"This whole town of Leroy is our family," said Pam.   Giving this family a few hours of laughter and smiling to help with the healing.

"We're a team him and I, and that was the thought I had when we got the news, was I need the other half of my team," said Pam through tears.  "I can't have Soren without a dad."

"I'm here to win this battle, to make leukemia sorry it ever came into my body," said Joe. "It just makes you appreciate every single day."

And every single bus ride

The Saterdalen family says Joe received great news that a match has been found for a bone marrow transplant.  His brother will be able to save his life.  The family has a GoFundme page set up for medical bills and updates on Joe's journey.  For details on how you can become a bone marrow donor click here.

Their family and friends have also set up a breakfast benefit on March 31, 2019 at Good Earth Village in Spring Valley.   The event is from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with many silent auction items and a live auction.  All of the proceeds will help toward medical expenses.

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