When Jonah was 6 years old, a lingering fever took him and his parents to their nearest urgent care. Once there, Jonah’s level of consciousness shifted drastically, requiring emergency transport to Rady Children’s.
Doctors informed Jonah’s parents that he was in septic shock—an extreme reaction to infection that compromises the immune system. His organs were not functioning properly and his likelihood of survival was low.
“I told the team caring for him: ‘Jonah’s a fighter. We’ve got our faith and he will come out of this and show you who he is,’” recalls his mom, Rhodalyn.
Shortly thereafter, tests showed that Jonah had developed the rare blood disorder hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). Jonah was admitted to Rady Children’s ICU, where he would stay for two months receiving various treatments—including chemotherapy—aimed at eradicating the blood cells causing his illness.
“I remember the nurses in the ICU sitting and praying with me, covering me with a blanket when I fell asleep holding Jonah’s hand,” says Rhodalyn.
When a lumbar puncture revealed that some of the damaging cells remained, Jonah’s parents opted for a bone marrow transplant to increase his chances of healing. Jonah’s younger brother, Jayden, served as his bone marrow donor.
At that point, Jonah transitioned from the ICU to receive care in Rady Children’s Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. The family spent nearly all of 2016 in the hospital—including the holidays.
“I remember looking out the window of his transplant room and seeing the decorations, as well as going outside to get some fresh air each night and looking up to see the outline of an angel that is lit up inside the Rose Pavilion clock tower during that season,” recalls Rhodalyn. “It was beautiful.”
Despite the many challenges during that uncertain time at Rady Children’s, she still has fond memories. “We were together,” she says, “and we knew we were going to make it out together.”
In addition to all of the outstanding physicians and nurses that cared for the family of six throughout their journey, Rhodalyn also credits Rady Children’s child life specialists for making Jonah and each of his three brothers feel at home while in the hospital.
“They took the time to play with Jonah and made him feel like a kid,” she says. “When his brothers were allowed to visit, the child life team made sure they were taken care of and able to focus on being together and continuing their bond.”
Just as a new year dawned in 2017, Jonah’s family’s prayers were answered. He had beat the odds and was able to return home to the active childhood he shares with his brothers.
Since his year-long stay at Rady Children’s, Jonah has also had to undergo a below-the-knee amputation to remove a bone in his left leg affected by his complex diagnoses and medical history. But that isn’t slowing him down.
“He’s doing everything he wants to do,” reports Jonah’s mom. “He has come through fighting, and he’s alive and thriving.
Now 12-year-old Jonah says he wants to be a nurse when he grows up: “Because I get to share the same experience I had when I was in the hospital with other children and tell them my story.”
His mother also has hopes for his future. “My biggest wish for Jonah is for him to continue to live life to the fullest with no limitations; grow old with his brothers and myself; and have a family and be happy and healthy for the rest of his life,” she says.
The Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders provides the most advanced cancer treatment and hematology services—including blood and bone marrow transplants—to more than 20,000 patients each year. The Peckham Center offers personalized care and wraparound support to offer healing and hope to children like Jonah and their families. Philanthropic support helps Rady Children’s focus on groundbreaking research, innovative treatments and holistic psychosocial programs led by the foremost experts in the field to improve outcomes for young patients fighting cancer.