James (age 8) was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in May of 2007. He had been going through chemotherapy for 2 ½ years, which had been its own difficult road, when he suffered a very rare, unexpected, and severe side effect from the chemo that suddenly took away his ability to walk or stand. In late January of 2010, in the matter of a few days, he went from running up and down a basketball court, to being in a wheelchair and unable to walk. As we were reeling from this, with our little boy in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation over the next two months, we struggled with how we were going to care for him in our home, which was made for people who could climb steps. We were carrying James, who weighed 70 lbs at the time, up and down the stairs all the time, which was not only difficult (aching backs) but somewhat dangerous.
We weren’t home from the hospital for long when the IROK Foundation reached out to us to see what help we needed. Before we knew it, Paul Schwinghammer of Hallmark Homes (the builder associated Kori’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) was at our home looking at the situation. We were astonished and touched by how quickly and eagerly IROK attacked our problems and helped with our needs, and how giving they were to do this. Converting our mud room into a downstairs full bathroom enabled us to also set up James’ bedroom downstairs. James was so proud to have his own beautiful bathroom right off his new room downstairs, and it has made it so much easier and safer to have this handicap accessible bathroom!
Those who know James know that he is a fighter, and he will tell you his motto is, "Never give up." He's a happy little boy who seems to always be wearing a smile.
He refused to listen to the doctors that told us he would never walk again, and he turns away any negative or doubtful discussion about his recovery. Everyone who works with James literally every day (including his wonderful physical therapists) knows that he pushes himself the hardest. He often surprises us by surpassing what he should be able to do.
With so much continued hard work and going beyond so many people’s expectations (but not his!), James started walking again with assistance! Some of the nerves in his legs that were thought to have been destroyed have healed and are now re-growing. He still has a lot of weakness in his legs and he cannot climb steps, but to see him standing and walking some today has been a priceless gift to us! We do not take the simplest things, or abilities for granted.
For a child so young, James has such a strong faith in God, and has told us that through his faith, he’s being healed! Through the most difficult times over the last few years, and especially through the difficult struggles this year, we have seen a lot of answered prayers. The IROK Foundation seeking us out early this year was one of those answered prayers! They're hand reaching out to help us at our dire moment started to turn the tide in a much better direction.