Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Dad hopes his gift is his daughter's life

This Father's Day, Dad will be doing the giving.

"It's Father's Day, and I'm going to be admitted to the hospital . . . to save my daughter's life," said Herbie Daniels, a father of five. "That's what we're shooting for."

One-year-old Ashley Daniels is at All Children's Hospital, the victim of a rare cancer that will take her life unless she gets a bone marrow transplant.

Against extraordinary odds, her father was found to be a compatible donor.

Today, after almost nine months of prayer, treatments and a streak of bad luck, her father will undergo preparation for Monday's transplant operation.

"It's just a real hard thing for everyone," Daniels said. "We pray it works."

At four months, Ashley was found to have juvenile chronic myelogenous leukemia, a cancer that strikes about 1 in every 2.5-million children in the United States, experts say.

The marrow transplant will increase Ashley's chance of defeating the leukemia, but it's not a certainty.

"Unfortunately, even with the transplant, she has a 50-50 chance of beating the leukemia," said Dr. Alan Wayne, a pediatric oncologist with the bone marrow transplant program at All Children's.

The vast majority of children with the disease have died, Wayne said.

A transplant attempt two months ago had to be postponed when Ashley came down with upper respiratory and sinus infections after a series of high doses of chemotherapy.

It was one in a seemingly endless series of setbacks for the Daniels family.

Unable to afford the insurance offered by his employer, Sanders Roofing and Sheet Metal, the ever-growing pile of medical bills was taking its toll, Daniels said.

"We found out last month our family was ineligible for Medicaid. We aren't scheduled for recertification into the program until June 25, so we don't know if anything will be covered," Daniels said.

About the same time, he said, his car was repossessed and the family was evicted from the mobile home they rented in Ocoee, about 17 miles west of Orlando.

He simply didn't have the money, Daniels said.

The family is living with his sister and her two children in a four-bedroom house in Ocoee.

Each weekend for the past two months, Daniels and his four other children _ Timothy, 5; Jessica, 4; Joshua, 3; and Tonya, 2 _ have packed into the car and headed to St. Petersburg to visit Ashley and her mother, Sandy Daniels. Mrs. Daniels has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House since Ashley was admitted on Mother's Day.

Lately, the ride to St. Petersburg has been a particular adventure.

"It's our $100 wonder car because it's a wonder we make it," Daniels said. "At night I have to tape on flashlights for taillights, and I don't have any brake lights because of it. It eats three quarts of oil before each trip to and from St. Petersburg."

Two days after a recent operation to remove her badly inflamed spleen, Ashley was able to sit up for the first time. The enlarged spleen had kept her from doing so, doctors said.

"She put her hands in the air like, "Oh, Mom, look at me!' She's a great little girl," Mrs. Daniels said.

"We've always felt that if Ashley's going to be healed, it's God's will," Herbie Daniels said. "I feel it really could be a gift from God."

If you want to help

A fund has been set up to assist with unpaid medical expenses and housing for the Danielses. Donations can be made at any First Union National Bank of Florida for the Daniels Family Fund.