In the spring of 2015 Trey Flowers was sitting in a Stanford University hospital ward, alone. Wires hung all around him from various machines hooked up to his body. He had just been through a liver transplant surgery lasting seven hours.
Little did he know that in December of the next year, he would be running onto the court with the Chicago Bulls, an honorary member of the team for the day thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Trey, now a Junior here at Central Catholic, underwent the transplant due to severe liver failure, a life-threatening condition if left untreated. The issues began after he became sick during his freshman year, and continued until his surgery that spring.
After the surgery, Trey stayed in the Stanford hospital for three days. Naturally, when discharged, he was eager to leave, because as Trey describes, “they had stuff all up in my body.”
After recovering in the ward, Trey spent time at the Ronald McDonald house near the Stanford hospital, which offers hospitality and care for critically ill children and their families. Soon, Trey came home to Oregon City, finally returning to his friends and loved ones.
The Make-a-Wish foundation grants wishes for amazing vacations, opportunities to meet celebrities, and provides gifts for children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. The foundation contacted Trey soon after his surgery, but as he was still on medication, Trey didn’t take the offer completely seriously:
“I was like, ‘Cool,’ but I didn’t think it was actually going to happen.”
The foundation reached out again by mail a few months later, and remained in contact with Trey from soon after the operation in the spring of 2015 until the summer of 2016, when they reached a decision on Trey’s wish.
Many ideas were considered for the wish, including trips to Disney World, the summer Olympics in Rio, and the NBA’s All Star Weekend in February of 2016. The idea of going to All Star Weekend inspired Trey and his representatives to look into the prospect of an NBA-related wish, an intriguing opportunity because, as Trey admits, “I’m not going to the league any time soon.” They were in contact with teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Chicago Bulls. After receiving offers from each team, Trey decided on Chicago, and flew out to the Windy City on December 28, 2016 to sign a one-day contract as a Chicago Bull.
In Chicago, Trey held a press conference before meeting Bulls players and coaches, and joining the team as they warmed up and ran onto the floor. He then settled into his seat for the game, on the bench alongside the likes of Rajon Rondo, Jimmy Butler, and Dwyane Wade, as the Bulls took on the Brooklyn Nets.
A perfect end to an incredible day, Trey says the best part of his experience with the Bulls was sitting courtside with his family to watch Butler’s game-winning jumper as time expired.
Trey has made a full recovery from his surgery, and has gained a new perspective as a result of his operation. When asked how his life has changed since before his surgery, Trey described his new outlook and appreciation for the people around him: “You need to grasp onto the things you have now… I know from almost losing my own life. I have a better perspective on what I need to value in life, because sometimes I take that for granted. Before my surgery I took my friends for granted, my family for granted. Now, I make sure my family and my friends know that I love them, because I don’t know the time that I have with them on this earth.”
The fact that he can look back and take an incredibly valuable lesson from such an unnerving experience speaks volumes about the kind of person Trey is. He’s been through hell and back, but is a better person for it, and continues to spread an important message: to recognize the gifts you have, and to hold on tight to the people that mean the most to you. Trey said it best himself: “Value life, and value the things you have, because you never know when you’re going to lose it.”
“Bulls Sign 17-Year-Old Fan Who Suffered Liver Failure.” CBS Chicago. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
“Interview with Trey Flowers.” Personal interview. 17 Feb. 2017.
“Make-A-Wish® America.” Make-A-Wish® America. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
“Ronald McDonald House Charities Stanford.” Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, http://www.ronaldhouse.net/home.php. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.