Rio 2016 Olympian Sells Silver Medal for Pediatric Retinoblastoma Patient

It’s stories like these that warm our hearts and give hope in times of sadness. Piotr Malachowski, a Polish Olympian who won a silver medal in discus throwing, has auctioned off his coveted silver medal. Why? To help 3-year-old Olek Szymanski receive a life-saving operation to treat his pediatric retinoblastoma.

Briefly after his Olympic performance, Olek’s mother reached out to Malachowski for help. She explained that he has been battling the condition for nearly two years, and there was no way that Polish doctors would be able to cure him. He would need to fly to an ophthalmic oncologist in New York for the operation, and they needed $126,000 total to fund it.

Uniting the Internet

Malachowski took to social media to inspire his followers. On Facebook, he posted: “In Rio, I fought for gold. Today I call on all people – let us fight together for something that is even more valuable. For the health of this fantastic boy.”

A Polish foundation called Siepomaga had already raised one-third of the cost, so Malachowski set up an online auction to account for the remaining $84,000. A few days into the auction, the top bidder had pledged $19,000. However, he unexpectedly took down the auction shortly after, as Polish billionaires Sebastian and Dominika Kulczyk agreed to buy the medal for the full remaining cost needed by the Szymanski family.

A Glimpse into Retinoblastoma Treatment

Pediatric retinoblastoma is a rare and very aggressive condition, meaning that finding the right treatment is critical, and critical to obtain in a timely manner. In order to assess all aspects of treatment, children may need to see specialists such as a pediatric ophthalmologist, ocular oncologist, pediatric oncologist, and radiation oncologist.

Apart from doctors, the patient will see a number of healthcare professionals such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, therapists, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and genetic counselors – among others.

Finding Support

As with the Szymanskis, some families will need to reach out for support to ensure that the child receives the best possible care. The American Cancer Society has an extensive list of pediatric retinoblastoma support resources so that children and their families don’t need to weather the storm alone. These resources include therapeutic and emotional support, as well as opportunities to receive financial help for treatment-related expenses.