Austin Spencer, now a student at Illinois State University, was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH)three years ago after feeling ill. The teenager missed his entire junior year and much of his senior year of high school after undergoing a bone marrow transplant in 2014 to treat the life-threatening condition, which affects the immune cells, according to the NIH.
While undergoing treatment, Spencer never gave up his dream of playing basketball -- working out while in the hospital -- and was determined to defy his doctor's expectations that he may never be able to play again. On his fourth day back at school in November 2014, Spencer not only rejoined his high school's basketball team but started the game and ended as the game's highest scorer.
“He had what would be called a miraculous recovery,” Spencer’s father, Bart Spencer, told ABC News.
Austin and Bart Spencer, along with Austin’s mom, Tamara, and sister, Raegan, are attending the Final Four games and getting a backstage experience thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The entire family will be rooting for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to win it all this year for a very special reason.
“He’ll definitely be the only Duke fan there, I’m sure, rooting for the Tar Heels,” Tamara Spencer said of her son, Austin. "Mason’s team is North Carolina so we’re happy to see them play."
Spencer, who was taking part in Final Four activities and not able to speak to ABC News, is still closely monitored by doctors but is healthy. He's pursuing a career in medicine.
The family says it is choosing to use their trip to the Final Four to focus on the positive, like what a truly remarkable recovery Spencer has made.
“Mason’s tragedy took over the spotlight and we kind of forget how good of a recovery it was for Austin,” Bart said. “This trip gives us a chance to remember how fragile it was and how we could have lost both sons.“
“We need to remember that he had a miraculous recovery and has a bright future ahead of him,” he said.
"We're taking time to focus on the now because we know how fast that can go," Tamara added.