'Part of this team': Jonathan Pitre and Sens find mutual inspiration

It's been a wild few days for the Ottawa Senators and honorary teammate Jonathan Pitre — better known to many as the city's "butterfly child."

At nearly 17 years old, Pitre has suffered from epidermolysis bullosa, a rare disease that makes his skin so brittle it blisters and tears, for his entire life.

But there's hope.  

"Big news," Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher told reporters yesterday morning. "Jonathan Pitre's treatments are working well." 

Pitre began a potentially life-saving treatment for the second time in April, after a failed stem cell transplant last year. He underwent painful chemotherapy to prepare his body to accept the transplant and his mother, Tina Boileau, donated bone marrow.

On Tuesday, while her son slept, Boileau got the amazing news.

"When he woke up, I looked at him and I said, 'You know what, buddy? The transplant worked. You're 100 per cent donor cell,'" she said from Minnesota. 

"And he just hugged me and said, 'Mom it worked. We did it. We finally did it.'"

A special relationship

It didn't take long for the good news to spread to Ottawa's locker room and players say it is a source of inspiration.

"He's a big part of this team and we're wishing him well every day," said alternate captain Kyle Turris. "He's an amazing person, who we think about daily in our locker room."

Pitre is thinking about the Sens too.

Lately, game days have fallen on "bath day" — a lengthy and painful ritual when Boileau changes her son's many bandages. 

"We've been watching every single game from our hospital room," she said. "It's given him the strength to carry on. He watches the game and it just primes him."

Both are fighting, Boileau says

Boileau says Pitre feels a kinship to the players — several of whom he contacts regularly — but, more than that, he feels they're travelling a similar journey. 

"It's been really nice to have him carry this battle and have the Sens also battling," Boileau explained.

In each of the Senators three playoff series, the team has been portrayed as the underdog. Whenever they seem to be on the ropes, they bounce back hard. 

After Monday's loss in Pittsburgh, the team rallied to an amazing early lead in the first period. Some avid fans were calling Pitre the game's MVP. 

More challenges ahead for Pitre

If the Senators win the Eastern Conference finals, they'll battle for the Stanley Cup. 

Pitre's path is not as clear.

"There's quite a road ahead of us," Boileau said, explaining that now Jonathan needs to grow his own cells or risk developing graft versus host disease. 

After that, she said she can't wait to see his skin improve.

"There will be some skin grafts happening at one point to help some of the larger areas heal, because they're so deep and they've been on Jonathan's body for years and years."

Regardless of the challenges, Boileau says this week has shown that for Pitre there's "a light" at the end of the tunnel.