It was when time stood still for the Tijerina family as they received the news that their son was in for the battle of a lifetime. Little Jackson had a brain tumor, one that for years had stunted his growth and caused him nausea.
Jackson's mom, Amy Tijerina, tells NewsRadio 1110 KFAB that soon after his diagnosis doctors would start him on chemotherapy, meaning he would need a medical port in his chest. "His port, in particular, is right in the middle of his chest and when his doctor put it in, he told Jackson, 'Oh you look just like Iron Man and you'll get special strength from your port just like Iron Man gets strength from his."
Amy says that jump started Jackson's love of Iron Man. "That's how he kinda became a huge Iron Man fan. He calls himself Iron Man, he does his little poses just like him." It has now been nearly three years since Jackson started treatments and Amy says in July, they found out the chemo wasn't working and they were running out of options for treatment.
So Amy decided she was going to create a bucket list for Jackson. A list of little things, like getting to tour Kinnick stadium, that she could do to make her little warrior happy. "His biggest wish was that he got to meet Iron Man. He didn't just want to meet the Iron Man in a costume. He wanted to meet the Robert Downey Jr."
In an effort to try and make her son's dream come true, Amy put a post on Facebook, asking if anyone had any contacts in Hollywood that could get in touch with Iron Man himself. "I had a couple of friends who got back to me and said, 'I have connections in Hollywood, let me see what I can do.'"
On Monday, Jackson's dreams came true when he got a video message from the one, and only, Robert Downey Jr. "Jackson was super excited and he was jumping up and down and he was thrilled that he was actually saying his name out loud. I was crying, his sister was crying."
Amy says it is amazing to see how the community has rallied around her son, and that someone like Downey Jr. would take time to wish Jackson well. "It's an amazing thing to see a community come together for one little child and to see that he means so much more, to not just our family, but to everyone else. So for people like Robert Downey Jr., it's an amazing thing for someone of his celebrity status to acknowledge Jackson and say, 'Hey, I'm rooting for you."
Although Jackson is riding high on his shout-out from Iron Man, Amy says he has a few other things he'd like to check off his bucket list. "He comes up with new things all the time, but he does want to go to an Iowa Hawkeyes game. He wants to go to an Atlanta Falcons game. He wants to meet Peyton Manning, because he's another huge hero of Jackson's." Amy explained that Jackson's first brain surgery was the same weekend that Peyton Manning lead his Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Jackson is currently undergoing an experimental treatment through Children's Hospital and St. Jude's and Amy says although they aren't sure how well the treatment will work, they'll keep making sure Jackson is the happy seven year old he deserves to be.