The last time Aron Dimitroff's name hit the headlines was the day he came into the world -- he was the first baby born in Buffalo during the Blizzard of '77.
Because Aron was born with a hole in his heart and other complications, doctors never expected him to live more than three years.
But the little boy proved to be as tough as the snowstorm that marked his grand debut at Children's Hospital.
"He's beat a lot of odds," said his mother, Sandra, who remarried after her first husband died of the same ailment that her youngest son inherited. "He's an incredible fighter. He's an incredible kid."
Yet this year has been extraordinarily difficult for Aron and his mom, who is now divorced from her second husband.
Aron's kidneys are malfunctioning. And now the doctors are talking about a possible heart and liver transplant.
In the spring, Aron's best friend died of a rare form of cancer. Aron seemed terribly depressed, and his mother and teachers observed that he had no appetite or energy. Then one day in July, Aron literally couldn't get out of bed.
Doctors diagnosed endocarditis, a severe inflammation of the heart lining, and bombarded Aron's system with heavy doses of penicillin. It appears his heart survived serious damage, but he must now carefully restrict his activity and follow a special diet.
Fluid tends to build up in Aron's system, swelling his feet to twice their normal size. Mrs. Spivey has no car and on several occasions was forced to pay $70 round trip for a taxi when she needed to get her son to the hospital.
Eventually, she found out that Medicaid would help with transportation costs. But because Aron receives survivor benefits from Social Security, the family doesn't qualify for as much Medicaid help as they need. For the same reason, they are not eligible for food stamp assistance.
Aron's mother has rejected going on welfare for several reasons. For one thing, the state would put a lien on her Lockport mobile home.
"This is the last stronghold I have," she said. "When they told me they would put a lien on the trailer, I said to myself: 'OK. Fine. Somehow I will just have to get by on my own.' "
Aron idolizes his big brother, 20-year-old Todd Dimitroff. Todd is coming home for Christmas from Newport, R.I., where he is stationed aboard a Navy frigate. He's trying to get a hardship discharge, Mrs. Spivey said, so he can help care for his little brother.
"It's been hard for Aron, going through all this without a daddy," said his mother. "Todd's been a big source of strength for him."
As the medical costs mounted, the family lost its telephone service.
The car that Aron's mother once owned broke down in the desert when she and Aron drove to see Todd graduate from basic training in San Diego more than a year ago. She couldn't pay for the repair and had to sign the car over to the man who fixed it. She and her youngest son returned home on a Greyhound bus.
Friends marvel at the mother's strength, but she admits there are times she has to "lock myself in a room and go to pieces." She credits her religious faith for getting her family through the highs and lows.
"I guess I'm a normal, selfish mother who just wants to see this little guy grow up and maybe someday bless me with some very special grandchildren," she said.