An aspiring performer, Daniel was down on his luck, angered at his fate, and barely surviving on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis [we’ve all been there at one time or another]. To make matters more difficult, Daniel’s first child was about to be born and he knew there would be over-and-above expenses that would stretch him further …
Lost, confused and running out of hope, Daniel slips into a Detroit church service, prays to the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes then puts his last seven dollars into the collection basket. He has no idea how he’ll be able to support his family but he vows to return the favor should a miracle come upon him …
Meet Gracie …
You’d never know it by the bright smile and happy squeals only a joyful child can bring but Gracie is a very, very sick little girl. Her loyal companion, Karson the Labrador Retriever, stays by her side and gives her comfort. Just one day after her birth, Gracie was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.
“I barely got to hold her before the nurses took her away,” says Ashley, her Mom.
Gracie had a fever and her breathing was erratic. Less than 24 hours later, the diagnosis came. “I was devastated,” says Ashley. To make matters even more challenging, when Ashley went into labor after “smooth-sailing” her way through nine months of pregnancy, Gracie’s Dad, a U.S. Marine corporal, was stationed nearly 7,000 miles away in Iraq.
Life since that day has been a vortex of doctor appointments, hospital stays and treatments. Tears and prayers, fears and anguish.
Gracie began chemotherapy immediately. It was heart-wrenching to see the little girl hooked up to multiple, large machines … such a big challenge for such a tiny thing. Thanks to the skilled hands of medical staff and the wonders of modern healthcare technology, little Gracie’s blood cancer went into remission within two months.
Blessedly, Gracie remains in remission today and her ongoing treatment includes music and occupational/physical therapy to ensure she reaches her medical milestones. “Some of Gracie’s nurses have known her longer than I have,” says her Dad. “They’ve been with her every day and watched her grow.”
Meet Ashtyn …
Ashtyn was always a vivacious little girl who loved her cheerleader uniforms and the chance to cheer at youth league games. But in spring 2018 at cheer practice, Ashtyn suddenly became wobbly and dizzy followed by headaches and vomiting. When she had another episode at daycare, Mom Kiara took her to an eye doctor at the urging of a friend, thinking it might be vertigo or something similar that was affecting little Ashytn’s equilibrium.
No such luck.
An MRI was performed and a dire diagnosis was handed down — medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer. “My first thought was, ‘Is the end for my 5-year-old?’” said Kiara.
A physician herself, Kiara decided to bypass local treatment and take Ashtyn to out-of-town specialists. It was eye-opening. “I’m experiencing medicine completely different than I ever have before,” she says. Ashtyn underwent two surgeries, as well as proton treatment and chemotherapy, and participates in physical and occupational therapies. She has completed her treatment regimen and is able to attend kindergarten and get back to cheerleading which makes her happiest.
“Our world was instantly flipped upside-down,” Kiara says. “You never think it might be you one day. You never think in a million years it will be you.”
Meet Layla …
Layla’s story hasn’t been fully written and the chapters that remain are concerning. Just days before her third birthday, Layla was diagnosed with a slow-growing brain cancer that cannot be operated on due to its proximity to the brain stem.
Now nine years old, Layla knows far more about this awful disease than a young person should. She can explain the role of a shunt, she knows what a port is for, and she understands what’s happening when Mom Autumn discusses her treatment plan with specialists.
For Layla, this is essentially the only life she has known …
The first two years of her treatment included a number of scary emergencies leading to nine surgeries, countless scans, constant monitoring of tumor size, and prayer after prayer it would simply go away
Over the years, Layla made many friends at her hospital; kids facing similar challenges and eventually graduating from treatment programs and ringing the bell. “When do I get to ring the bell?” Layla asked Autumn. The reality is she may never have that opportunity because her cancer is advancing slowly but not at such a rate that desperate measures are needed right now.
Layla is surviving but she isn’t considered in the “survivorship” phase of treatment. Reality is, she’ll likely never get there. “We had to come to terms with knowing she’s different … even from the cancer friends, she’s still different,” Mom says. “We have time until we don’t.”
Back to Daniel …
When Daniel left the church that day, he was still lost, feeling a painful mix of desperation and hopelessness. Bargaining with a Higher Being, as we all do when our backs are to the wall, Daniel double-downed on his promise to the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes, St. Jude, that he would one day build him a shrine … if only Jude would cut him a break this time.
Ten days later, Daniel landed a gig that paid him 10 times what he’d put in the collection plate. He kept his promise and in 1962, along with two friends, founded a hospital on the premise “No child shall die in the dawn of life”.
With apologies to Paul Harvey for borrowing his technique …
You know Daniel — born Amos Muzyad Yaqoob Kairouz — as Danny Thomas, the legendary actor, singer, nightclub comedian, producer, and philanthropist whose career spanned five decades. He passed on 30 years ago but his legacy – his promise to St. Jude – lives on in the form of a shrine called St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, along with eight affiliate hospitals around the country.
The facility runs entirely on donations and costs $2.8 million a day to operate. Somehow so far, enough donations have found their way to St. Jude, and 82 cents of every dollar go to children in dire medical need. The remaining money goes towards salaries and administrative costs.
If there’s one thing Gracie, Ashtyn and Layla have in common, it’s the miracle of their families not having to bear the burden of enormous medical bills. Everything is paid for, including treatments, housing and meals for their families during care. When the families’ insurance stops paying, St. Jude [the staff and the saint] step in and cover the rest.
If you’re able to consider financially supporting this wonderful facility, you can donate here: https://www.stjude.org/donatetoday. If not, please take a moment and offer a prayer of gratitude for the staff and their kind and caring hearts … and for all the children who pass through the hospital’s doors.
From all of us at dynami group, we wish you a warm and wonderful holiday season … and a new year filled with kindness, love and good health.