Bobby Heravi did not want his son, Faryan, to hear the doctor’s verdict and so made sure the boy’s head was turned away when he asked about his son’s chances of surviving an aggressive form of lymphoma.
“With my mouth expression I said, ‘What percent?’ And the doctor just did this,” Heravi said, splaying three fingers. “Because he was diagnosed as Stage 4. Stage 4 means terminal.”
The family, which lives in Irvine, was at its lowest ebb last May when Faryan, a Ducks fan who played street hockey through the club’s SCORE sports and educational program, was visited in the hospital by future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne. The Finnish winger is often asked to spend time with kids who are the toughest cases, the most seriously ill. Faryan was exhausted, his dark hair gone following grueling chemotherapy treatments.
“We were both out of hope, out of energy, and dried out,” Bobby Heravi said. “And when Teemu and the other people came in the room it was like a fresh breeze, fresh air. It was like a prophet entered the room, an angel. He was not a hockey player. He was not a celebrity. He was not anything but a dad. A dad came in and he treated him like a son.”
Selanne, father of four children ages 51/2 to 17, told Faryan he would be fine. If Selanne wasn’t entirely sure — he knew about the boy’s slim survival chances — he didn’t let Faryan see that.
Selanne told Faryan, then 10 years old, that if he beat the disease he would be Selanne’s guest at a game at the Honda Center. The family would get royal treatment — a tour of the locker room, anything he wanted. Faryan was as excited as he had been in a while.
Selanne desperately wanted to keep his end of the bargain.
“When I left there,” he said, “I was hoping this kid would make it. This kid was something special.”
On Wednesday, Selanne happily kept his promise.
Faryan, his older brother, Rayan, and their parents, Bobby and Sima, were Selanne’s guests at the Ducks’ game against Columbus. Bobby Heravi said Faryan was declared clear of cancer a few months ago and that the Ducks, without prompting, called the family to arrange the visit.
“They could have forgot about it,” said Bobby Heravi, a programmer, a native of Iran who grew up in Sweden and is an American citizen. “They went above and beyond for one little boy and a big promise.”
Sima Heravi, a foot surgeon, who grew up in Iran and immigrated to the United States, marvels at the boost Selanne’s hospital visit gave her son.
“He was up in the sky and he said, ‘Everything paid off. He came and visited me,’ ” she said. “All these little things makes the kid hopeful, looking for something.
“Athletes have lots of responsibilities on their shoulders, and for someone like him to go out of their way and provide this for society, it’s really fantastic.”
Faryan, who will be 12 in July, is a bright, outgoing child who speaks like an adult. “Everybody has told me that, that I’ve ever known, that I talk like a 30-year-old,” he said, nodding earnestly.
He missed a lot of school — he’s in fifth grade at the Fairmont School in North Tustin — but said proudly he has caught up. “I managed to get through it and I’m right now standing at a good grade-point average,” Faryan said. “I missed the SCORE tournament where all my best friends were playing, and I was so sad that day. I also missed my fourth-grade trip to Sacramento and my fifth-grade trip to Catalina Island Marine Institute.
“But believe me, it’s all paid off now because I’m right here in Honda Center.… I’m really grateful to be here, and for all the Anaheim Ducks fans, thank you.”
He has his future mapped out, which for most kids wouldn’t be extraordinary. But it wasn’t long ago he appeared not to have much of a future.
“Mostly I focus on becoming a doctor. Because after all, I know more about medicine because I’ve been in the hospital for a year,” he said. “I know more about medicine than, pretty much, about sports because I’ve been out of sports for a year.”
How about becoming a sports doctor?
His face lit up. “I could. I’d know the right painkillers. I could tape them up,” he said.
When his mother reminded him he had wanted to be an oncologist, he wasn’t fazed. “I can take multi jobs and make a bit more profit in my life,” he said.
Mature though he is, there’s still enough little boy in him to have been awed when Selanne, still sweaty from a postgame workout, came to greet him after the game. “Look at you — you look great,” Selanne said, smiling.
Selanne took the boys and Bobby into the locker room, where a jersey with Selanne’s No. 8 and the name HERAVI on the back awaited Faryan in Selanne’s locker stall. Selanne helped him put it on and roll up the sleeves. It reached down past his knees.
“Is this actually real?” Faryan said, his fingers tracing the letters. “I’m going to keep it as long as I live.”
They parted with hugs and promises from Selanne of playoff tickets for the family. Selanne often visits ailing kids here and in Finland, sometimes on his own and sometimes with teammates, but this encounter was different.
“Seeing him again,” Selanne said, “it brings goose bumps on my body.”
It also brought him a much-needed jolt of energy after a disappointing loss.
“It just shows it’s just hockey and there’s way bigger things than hockey,” Selanne said. “You go home and give hugs to your kids.”