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Childhood illness a battle

As far as I can tell, I was a pretty lucky kid growing up, especially in regards to my health.

Sure, I got sick around flu season, like any other child would. But I never suffered from any major illness, disease or injury.

The only time I spent in a hospital was to get stitches once when I was very little. I had tripped and felt onto a garden rake and two of the prongs got me in the leg.

Not a big deal looking back on it, although I was quite hysterical in the emergency room, I recollect.

I also didn’t really know many children my age who fought illness on a regular basis either.

There was one boy in my first grade class who had diabetes. One week for show and tell, his mother came to class and showed everyone his daily routine of getting insulin shots. While I’m pretty sure I hadn’t grasped exactly what diabetes was, I knew it didn’t look like any fun at all to have to get poked with a needle on a daily basis.

When I was in the second grade, a boy who sat in the desk in front of me had a grand mal seizure during class. That was terrifying for the entire class. I had never seen anyone have a seizure before. I don’t think I knew what one was before that day.

It wasn’t until I was about 15 that I saw how a child’s illness impacts an entire family and community.

Michael, a little boy who went to my church, was just 10 years old when he was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor on the base of his spinal chord.

It was a shock for his family and everyone who knew them.

Michael was always rambunctious and rowdy, so full of energy, a handful to many babysitters and church nursery workers.

Since surgery wasn’t an option to remove the invasive tumor, Michael underwent chemotherapy and radiation. It wasn’t long before all that youthful energy disappeared right before our eyes.

I visited him a few days before he passed away, as many people also did. His mother had made him a makeshift bedroom in their den; he could no longer climb the stairs to his own room.

Michael was so weak and frail, almost unrecognizable as the little boy who always seemed to have an unlimited supply of energy. His mother was weary from providing 24-hour a day care to her son, while still taking care of another younger son.

But despite being physically incapable of running and jumping, or even walking and standing as he used to, Michael had an incredible resilience and spirit that remained right up until the end.

I expected my visit to be full of sadness and tears. But Michael didn’t act scared or angry and he didn’t cry. He was strong and as positive as he had ever been.

It was clear he was holding it all together for his family and a community who just didn’t understand why this was happening.

Michael was the first child I knew who had a terminal illness, and unfortunately, he wasn’t the last.

Even since I started working at The Tribune, I’ve done stories about children fighting various diseases and the efforts to raise money for their treatments and travel expenses far away children’s hospitals.

Most recently, I wrote a story about a couple of guys who are raising money for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, a hospital in the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals system.

I have the privilege of calling Adam Kipp and Brice Barnett my friends and I’m very proud of the hard work they’ve done this year in raising money for the hospital.

The fundraising effort culminated Saturday with the Extra Life event, a 24-hour gaming marathon in which Kipp, Barnett and a bunch of friends pledged to stay awake one solid day and play video games while continuing to raise money.

The marathon is a global effort and brought in almost $4 million last year.

This year, my friends, raising money under the team name The Standard Nerds, set a $3,000 goal. About a quarter of the way through the event, they had raised $2,299 in all.

Even though by the time you read this, the marathon will have ended, there is still time to donate and help support the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

These donations go to support research and training, purchase equipment and pay for uncompensated care, all to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible.

Some of those children come from right here in our community.

To help support a worthy cause and help some generous people meet their goal, donate at www.extra-life.org/team/thestandardnerds.

 

Michelle Goodman is the news editor at The Tribune. To reach her, call 740-532-1441 ext. 12 or by email at michelle.goodman@irontontribune.com.