One-year-old Josiah Parker is all smiles. Looking at this bubbly and busy toddler, you’d never guess that he spent his first year of life fighting to stay alive. After months of fear and worry, his mother, Michelle Parker, is finally all smiles too.
Josiah’s health problems began the day he was born, May 22, 2009. He could not keep any food down. For months, doctors thought he was experiencing milk allergies and reflux. They changed his baby formula repeatedly, but nothing ever helped.
“I knew something was wrong with my baby. He just kept screaming and crying in pain. He would pull at my neck, screaming. People said I was overacting, but I knew something was wrong,” says Parker.
On Thanksgiving Day 2009, she changed Josiah’s diaper and was shocked to see that it was filled with blood. She immediately went to the emergency room at the hospital in Hinesville, Ga. Josiah was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and given medication. But a week later, the six-month-old was even sicker and had lost three pounds.
“I’ll never forget that day. Josiah looked so sad. It was as if he was saying, ‘please, help me,’” says Parker. That’s when she decided she’d had enough. She packed up her car and her child and told a nurse at her pediatrician’s office that she was not taking her baby home again until she had some answers. She was planning to drive to a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. The nurse gently persuaded Parker to take Josiah to The Children’s Hospital at Memorial University Medical Center (MUMC) in Savannah instead. Parker was hesitant, but her intuition told her to make the drive to Savannah.
Josiah was immediately admitted to the Children’s Hospital at MUMC. Pediatric specialists carefully examined him. What they discovered shocked Parker.
“They told me he had a type of cancer called Wilm’s tumor, stage 5, in both kidneys. I was devastated. I dropped to my knees and I prayed, ‘please God, please help my baby.’ I can’t explain how I felt that day. It was awful,” says Parker.
The pediatric oncologists at MUMC developed a comprehensive treatment plan for Josiah. They also arranged for a case manager to provide support and guidance for Parker. In December, Josiah began six weeks of chemotherapy. He was able to return home between treatments.
On February 1, 2010, he had surgery to remove his entire right kidney and part of his left kidney. He spent 17 days in the hospital at MUMC. During that time, Parker stayed in the Ronald McDonald House on the MUMC campus. This allowed her to be with Josiah and still have a place to rest, shower, and eat a hot meal.
After he left the hospital, Josiah continued his chemotherapy treatments until the middle of May. Today, he is healing and recovering at a remarkable pace. The happy little boy is finally able to eat whatever he wants, he’s gaining weight, and he’s very active.
“I thank every single person that is part of The Children’s Hospital at Memorial. The doctors, the nurses, the housekeepers, the people in dietary, the volunteers, my case manager, everybody. Thank you so much for being there for us,” says Parker.
If it weren’t for The Children’s Hospital at MUMC, Josiah Parker may not have celebrated his first birthday. Fortunately, he and his mom can now look forward to many more years of birthday cakes, candles, and celebrations.