'It can happen in your home'

Boy who loves to play in fight for his life

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Aiden Butterfield, 5, plays with a toy dinosaur Wednesday as his mother Sarah Mitchell looks on. The Coeur d'Alene boy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last Novemeber.

COEUR d'ALENE - Before, when Aiden Butterfield was 2 or 3 years old, it was no big deal if he had a fever.

If his temperature climbed, some children's medicine, or a day in bed, could do the trick to have the boy back in action.

Today, mom Sarah Mitchell's biggest fear is a fever strikes her 5-year-old son.

It could kill him.

"Now if it hits 103, pack up everything, rush to Sacred Heart, we sit in the emergency room, he gets access, they draw blood cultures and labs and spinal taps. It's frightening, just to make sure he doesn't have an infection going."

As she sits on the couch in the living room and chats, her friendly, energized son blasts around their Coeur d'Alene home, running to his toy box and pulling on a green plastic creature.

"I've got to show you the biggest dinosaur you've ever seen," he announces as he places it on the coffee table.

"You want to take a picture of that?" he asks.

His mom, smiling, laughs.

"He's dino crazy," she says.

Aiden is loud and proud as he bounces about, showing visitors his stash of play things. He lets out a few yells and disappears down the hall, returning minutes later with a remote-controlled car that he tosses on the ground, then guides back and forth on the floor.

He seems to be your typical kid.

In many ways, he is.

But in one, he's not.

He's not.

In November, the friendly, energized Coeur d'Alene boy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, basically cancer of the white blood cells that fight off infection.

He had been experiencing some bruising and pain in his legs, nothing too alarming, mom said. But when his father, Bret Butterfield, tickled his son's knees during some birthday play time, the toddler crumpled.

"He just dropped to the ground," Sarah said.

That, his parents knew, was not normal.

They took their son to Coeur d'Alene Pediatrics, which in turn sent him to Kootenai Medical Center for a blood draw.

The results were not good.

"Sure enough, there were some leukemic cells in his blood," Sarah said.

And life for Aiden, Sarah and Bret hasn't been the same since - especially Aiden.

The toddler has undergone a regiment of blood draws, spinal taps and chemotherapy treatments. His hair fell out. Friday was the end of eight months of treatment. He's not done. For the next three years, there will be more spinal taps. There will be more blood draws. More chemo.

But no guarantees.

And as brave and courageous as Aiden is, he doesn't like it.

When the big needle comes out, he grimaces. The needle, well, it hurts.

"He's not a fan. He's not a fan at all," said Sarah.

Life at home, once routine, is filled with daily challenges.

Aiden can't be around folks who might have as little as a cough or a cold. There are days he must simply stay put inside with mom or dad. There are days he feels sick and must take it easy and rest, something he doesn't do well.

While most kids spend these summer days cooling off in the water at the beach, Aiden's parents must be sure he's not around playmates who might be ill, which is tough on him.

"He loves being out," mom said.

So that trip to the grocery store for a gallon of milk? Forget it, unless you can get someone to watch Aiden.

A sudden shopping trip to Target? No chance.

"We have to be really careful," Sarah said. "If he gets sick, then we're in the hospital for five days. I'm not taking him to stores or anything right now."

Aiden doesn't let it slow him. His hair grew back, and his spirit followed.

"Even if he had treatment yesterday, he would still be like, just going," Sarah said as she watched her son fuss and fidget. "He doesn't know how to stop."

Sarah, a mental health nurse, and Bret, a landscaper, have had strong support from family and friends. While they have insurance, they're still facing medical bills that will continue to grow over the next three years.

To help, friends are selling bracelets for $2 with Aiden's name, that are available at Chevron on Seltice and Highway 41, and the Coeur d'Alene Eagles Club. On Monday, Aug. 6, IHOP in Coeur d'Alene will donate a portion of proceeds of its sales between 5-10 p.m. to Aiden when guests mention they want to help the family. More fundraisers are in the planning stages.

Others have stepped up for Aiden, too.

The Children's Miracle Network arranged for him to drop the puck at a Spokane Chiefs game. He got to ride on a float at a parade.

"He loves being out with everyone," mom said.

Sarah once believed nothing like this could happen to her family, to her only son. Aiden Cal Butterfield was tall and full of laughter, healthy and happy.

Most days, he's still happy. And he's still full of laughter.

And mom and dad are praying that healthy isn't too far away, either.

As mom talks, Aiden bursts back into the living room, spits out some frantic words to his mom, snatches more toys, and races away.

"You think it's not going to happen to you," she said. "It can happen next door. It can happen in your home."

SHAWN GUST/Press Despite having been through months of blood draws, spinal taps and chemotherapy treatments, Aiden Butterfield is as energetic as any other 5-year-old boy.

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