LAUREL, Kentucky — His dream of big-time hunting became a reality for a Laurel teenager recently when he bagged an 800-pound moose.
Logan George, 16, and his stepfather, Bruce Goodrich, traveled from London in late September en route for Portage Lake, Maine, for a week-long hunting trip sponsored by Hunt of a Lifetime.
But what brought the teen to that organization is a story within itself.
Just over two years ago, George was a normal, extremely active teenage boy. He was involved in many outdoor activities.
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But a 2013 trip with his Boy Scout troop evolved into what would be a fight for his own life.
“We went to the border waters, the lakes between the United States and Canada,” he explained. “We went canoeing and hiking. But then the troop leader noticed I was covered with bruises. I thought I’d done it with the canoeing or while hiking and didn’t think anything about it.”
His mother, Kim, however, did think about it.
A routine doctor appointment showed that George had an extremely low platelet count — in fact, his totals were 11 when the normal range is 150.
“He sent him (George) to U.K. He was diagnosed with aplastic anemia,” Kim added. “It is very rare — they only diagnose about 200 people a year and they say the chances are two in every million people that you would have it.”
Aplastic anemia occurs when the bone marrow stop producing. That includes both red and white blood cells as well as the bone marrow itself.
It was soon obvious that George required a bone marrow transplant, after he underwent successive infusions. His mother said the young teen was “dependent on infusions” for several months.
Luckily, his sister Mackenzie George was a match — another rarity, his mother said.
“They said it is rare to find siblings that match exactly but she did,” Kim said.
Before the transplant could happen, however, Logan had to undergo chemotherapy to kill out any remaining cells to ensure his body would accept the new cells from his sister.
“We had to sign a paper saying we understood he could have the transplant and have complications or live a normal life or that he would live a year without it,” said his biological father, Danny George. “What do you do?”
In October 2013, Logan George and his sister underwent the surgery. While no problems were reported, Logan had to remain isolated for approximately 19 months.
“He couldn’t have anyone except us around him,” his stepfather added. “It’s hard on a boy that age not to be able to do things or see his friends.”
But a gaming system and online conversations opened up part of George’s usual world and he proceeded well with his recovery.
One bright spot during that desolate time was his selection for Hunt of a Lifetime. George heard about the organization while hospitalized in Lexington. Similar to other organizations that provide hope to sick children, the organization was founded by Tina Pattison, whose son Matt died in 1999 of lymphoma. Matt was too old to participate in the Make-a-Wish programs so his mother raised money to send him on a hunting trip before his death. Complaints by animal rights groups stopped the Make-a-Wish Foundation from sponsoring any hunting related trips for terminally ill children that same year.
“So Tina made it her mission,” Kim said. “It gave Logan hope. It was the highlight of his day to make plans.”
The preparation for the trip was another delight. The teenage boy, now 16, was presented with a rifle, an all-expensive paid flight to Maine and rental car for the 2½-hour trip to a lakefront cabin where he and Bruce stayed, a tour guide and gift baskets from both the Kentucky and Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife.
George’s father Danny said he was grateful for Goodrich accompanying his son on the trip.
“I was in the hospital myself and couldn’t go with him,” George said. “I’m so glad Bruce could go with him. We get along well and I have to say he treats my kids just like they’re his own. I’m grateful for him.”
It was on the third day of the trip that the teenage George saw another dream come true when he shot a large bull moose.
“I’d seen that same moose the day before, but the cow (female moose) cut in front of him so I didn’t shoot,” George said. “That morning I saw him again and our tour guide told me where to shoot.”
George pulled the trigger and fired — and the bull moose ran swiftly into a wooded area.
“At first I thought I missed it,” he said. “But it hit a tree and fell down.”
Realizing that his dream had come true is a moment is one that George said he would never forget.
“I was jumping and yelling. Words can’t describe how I felt,” he said. “We were hugging and people were coming by to help us with the moose. It was one big celebration.”
Indeed, the kill required a number of people to help — the moose weighed in at 806 pounds, one of the larger moose in the territory.
“It had 15 points and was 48 inches spread on the rack,” Bruce added.
But the special treatment from the Hunt of a Lifetime foundation didn’t stop then. Although George could no longer hunt after his kill, he and his stepfather were permitted to remain at Portage Lake for the remainder of the week. The remaining time was spent sightseeing and enjoying the area.
But the foundation paid for the moose to be processed, shipped to George’s home in Laurel County, and for the head to be mounted and shipped for George to keep.
“They took care of everything,” Bruce said. “They pay for processing, taxidermy, shipped and even tanning the hide.”
Now back in school at London Christian Academy, George is readjusting to school, to his friends, and to the world he left behind after his diagnosis of aplastic anemia. His tests have shown recovery and he has a new lease on life.
“I have my sister’s DNA now,” George said. “They told me if I robbed a bank and left some blood at the scene, it would show up as my sister.”
Danny George is grateful to the foundation as well as to Goodrich.
“I’m so glad Bruce could go with Logan,” he said. “I was in the hospital and couldn’t have gone with him. Bruce is good to my kids and treats them like his own. I’ll always be grateful for that.”
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