HAYS, Kan. (KSNW) – In two weeks, we find out who wins the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. The money from the Dream Home tickets is helping children who have life-threatening diseases.
It was a routine eye exam that led to some shocking news for then-15-year-old Tyler Jones, and his mother Pam.
According to Pam, the doctor found bleeding behind his retina.
Tyler had a MRI, and his doctor found a tumor on his brain stem. It’s called juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma, a rare type of childhood brain tumor — that sent Tyler to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas for a biopsy.
However, due to insurance reasons, Tyler couldn’t stay at the hospital. They ended up sending him to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis — something Pam is forever grateful for.
“I just think that the technology and the specialized treatment that they have at St. Jude,” she said. “It’s the place to be.”
Tyler went through 33 radiation treatments over a two month period, all of it paid for by St. Jude.
KSN asked Pam if she believes the treatments, provided by St. Jude, helped keep Tyler alive.
“I do,” she said. “I really do.”
At first, it was hard for Pam to stay focused on helping Tyler fight the cancer. She said it was hard to think on your own, but St. Jude staff and volunteers helped her.
“Every morning you walk in and they hand you a sheet of paper,” she explained. “That is your job for the day. It’s an agenda.”
That morning routines helped her get through their stay at St. Jude.
“It’s where you need to be if you’ve got a sick kid,” said Pam.
St. Jude continued to monitor Tyler’s progress, with the family going back to Memphis every couple of months. However, a visit in 2014 showed that Tyler’s tumor doubled in size — causing him balance problems.
The doctor was able to remove the tumor, but Tyler ended up paralyzed on the left side of his body. St. Jude found Tyler a specialized treatment rehab that serves stroke victims, and once again, paid for all of it.
“Once you’re a St. Jude patient,” said Pam. “You’re a patient for life.”
Right now, Tyler is going through physical therapy and can walk without any aides.
“We don’t really need to hang on to him,” said Tyler’s physical therapist, Charmane Kandt. “But we do when we push him to go fast, so I hang on to him.”
Pam says it’s nice to see her son, now 26 years old, almost back to normal again.
“We’ve got him to the point where he can drive a vehicle again,” she said. “He’s more independent. He doesn’t need me to take him anywhere.”
Pam is grateful for St. Jude, but knows Tyler’s progress wouldn’t be possible without the community’s help.
“Anybody that does donate to St. Jude, just know it’s going right where it belongs,” she said. “They don’t spend it anywhere except on the kids.”
Currently, Tyler is a patient in St. Jude’s lifetime study and he’ll be going back to Memphis every five years. Once again, St. Jude will pay for travel costs, housing and food, so that the family can focus on their main priority — Tyler.