Our family has always been a fan of country music and since Daniel was a baby he would never go to sleep unless the country music was playing. Daniel’s first song he sang when he was two-years-old was ‘What Was I Thinkin'” by Dierks. As Daniel became older he would listen constantly to Dierks’ CDs. I remember the first time he saw the video for "Every Mile a Memory” he said, “I am gonna be on a big stage like that and play my guitar.” That Christmas we bought him one and ever since he has not put it down. His dad even is learning to play and they play together all the time, not in tune but they try.
No other country musician has made more of an impression on Daniel as Dierks Bentley. When Dierks did the live webcast when making his new Home CD, Daniel was there sitting with me watching from the time he came home from school until it was time for bed. I had to fight with him to do his homework because he did not want to stop watching.
In November 2011, we had decided to take Daniel to a concert in NYC and to see if we could get a meet and greet so Daniel could finally meet his “best friend” as Daniel would call Dierks. We had bought the tickets and received the meet and greet, but Daniel became sick and could not go.
I noticed Daniel becoming very tired and assumed it was from school and playing baseball, but I was wrong. On December 19th we had a call from the school nurse that Daniel was jaundiced and very tired. He was admitted to the hospital and after many tests we were told Daniel has a rare disease called Evans Syndrome that affects less then 350 in the whole United States and 1100 in the whole wide world. We were devastated.
After two transfussions he was released with his numbers in stable range and placed on steroid treatments. He gained 42 pounds in a month and started having kidney stones due to the high does of steroid to keep his counts in stable range. He was admitted to the hospital twice with kidney stones and infections so they stopped the steroids to give his kidneys a break. His counts had dropped and he had to be put back on the steroids again. He missed 3 months of school and was being tutored at home.
In April of 2012 Daniel was in remission (Thank you Jesus).
May of 2012 we found out Dierks was coming to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. I bought tickets as soon as the presale opened that morning and put in for a meet and greet. When the meet and greets were announced 3 days before we did not get one. So I sent a few emails and luckily received an email and phone calls from Dierks's team arranging for a family meet and greet for Daniel, me and his dad. At this point I still didn’t tell Daniel because I needed the doctors clearance to bring him. Daniel's counts were fine and we received the OK and told Daniel. He was so happy and scared at the same time.
June 30th we woke up and packed the van and drove 35 minutes away to see Dierks. As soon as we pulled up Daniel screamed, “There is Goldie!” We parked the van and walked around to the entrance but we could not see Dierks anywhere. As we were standing waiting on our family passes with some other girls from the congress (fan club), Cassady (bassist) walked by us and we didn’t even realize it was him until Daniel said it. A few moments later here comes Dierks walking back from the beach and we all said, “Hey Dierks” and he said hey to everyone and kept walking to get ready for the show.
We all went inside the outdoor arena and Daniel started becoming sick and tired. We were getting a little nervous that we may have to leave, but the security officers took Daniel in gave us our own private seats and gave Daniel free slushies all night long. They were so nice to us. They came and got us and took us to the meet and greet.
Daniel finally met Dierks after all these years of being his “best friend.” Daniel was nervous as we all were but Dierks talked to Daniel and was such a very nice person. Daniel just wished he was able to talk with Dierks as if he knew who he was. Daniel sends so many letters but we don’t know if Dierks gets them because Daniel said, “he didn’t know who I was.”
Daniel was overwhelmed at the concert. He sang to every song and was rocking it. He was the happiest little boy in the whole world at that moment. His father and I were in tears seeing how happy he was and just think a few months ago he was the sickest little guy.
Two days later after the show Daniel began to show signs he was sick again. He was admitted to the hospital with double pneumonia and had to be taken off his Allstar team; he was so upset. We hosted a benefit for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to raise money to find a cure for Evans Syndrome and Daniel could not be there--he was back in the hospital listening to his Dierks CDs, which he keeps with him always.
If there is one thing that makes Daniel not think of his Evans Syndrome it is Dierks!
It's been a long hard ride, got a ways to go...
Daniel will be 10 years old next week. He is in remission and doing well. He still goes for weekly counts to make sure they stay in normal range.
~Dawn Applegate (Daniel's mom)
DB Congress Rep, NJ