[Personal] One of the Greatest People in My Life

Everyone has someone who motivates them to do their best in all that they do. For some it may be their family, for others their significant other or their children. For me, It's this little man right here.

Meet JoJo! He's 5 years old, LOVES going to Kindergarten, and is currently obsessed with Paw Patrol. JoJo was born with some setbacks, but has overcome anything and everything thrown his direction!

When JoJo was born, some of his abdominal organs were on the outside of his body, thus providing the doctors with some difficulty at birth. He stayed in the NICU for nearly 5 months, all while the doctors figured out how to approach his difficult situation. His internal organs actually sat inside of a plastic bag for 9 days held over top of him, in hopes that gravity would pull them down into his torso, but to no avail. Eventually, they gathered all of his organs into a skin graft, and allowed his torso skin to grow around this piece of skin, creating a bulge out of his belly where his organs were. A few months later my family met JoJo's family. We went to the same church, and at the time his family was looking for someone to care after JoJo, as both of his parents worked. My mother has been in the child care industry her whole life, and offered her help! Throughout the next couple of years of JoJo's life, we had tried different methods to let his body naturally take in his internal organs into his torso, all of which had no success. He needed a feeding tube during this time because half of his stomach was in his torso, and half of it was in the bulge of his belly. It didn’t fill or empty as it should. His lungs grew elongated (because they didn't have any organs underneath to support them) so he also needed supplemental oxygen.

May 2017, JoJo underwent a surgery to manually put his organs where they should have gone. The surgery went well, recovery however not so much. His organs didn't like the pressure of all being in a smaller place, so they began to shut down. It didn't take long before he was on over a dozen and a half different medications. His organs were in a plastic bag hung over top of him just like when he was first born. With failing kidneys and liver, he would required dialysis to keep his body functioning. A ventilator was needed to breath for him. The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) doctors told us that he had hours to live, if that. I remember them clearing out the room next to his, so all of his family could come back and be with him during that time. All of his previous doctors and surgeons that had done some form of work with him stood around his bedside, heavy hearted as they had no other recommendation as to how they could help him improve. It was an extremely rough time filled with sleepless nights, anxiety of whether or not JoJo would make it, and a constant fear that there was nothing else that could be done. But he did make it! Him having hours to live turned into taking it day-by-day, and within a couple of days the doctors finally came up with a plan, a course of action! We went back to only having 2 people with JoJo at a time and were held to the standard rules. Eventually they began to wean him off of his sedatives, which was one of the most horrific things to watch. His body was so used to the sedatives that he was given, that he began having withdrawal symptoms of twitching, flinching, and not being able to stay still. His eyes would be open, and he would acknowledge the medical room around him, and would have some looks or being terrified in his eyes. We switched his breathing tube from down his throat to a tracheostomy (trach) in his neck as he became more aware of his surroundings. Through this time, Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol were his best friends. His first sign of implied movement was when he reached for Chase's stuffed paw. We began working on his squeezing of Marshall's paw with his other hand as well, slowly helping him regain control over his body. As he continued progressing, there were still setbacks. Sometimes, his medical numbers weren't where they needed to be, so it still was a worry of whether JoJo's body would be functional again. But he kept going, he kept progressing. He began walking with a walker, he began learning how to push himself in a wheelchair. When he was off of the sedatives and completely awake, he would love to take rides in his wheelchair down to the garden of the hospital, saying hello to all of the nurses as we passed. Everyone knew his name no matter where we were going. Despite all that had happened to him in the hospital, he still has a large heart for those who have helped him.

So why JoJo? There are plenty of stories of children recovering from surgeries all around the world, especially in today's medical technology. JoJo motivates me to be my best because of his heart. Throughout this all, he never was rude to his surgeons, never had a mean heart towards any of the nurses. In fact, he still runs up to the practicing surgeon who did his surgery in May 2017. He always smiled whenever I walked into the room to see him, he always was so loving and wanted nothing more than for us to be with him. Throughout it all, he became an older brother to his younger sister. He would keep a picture of her taped to his bedside so he could see her every day. He would proudly show the nurses her picture, so they knew that he had a little sister. There were some days where he didn't want anyone to touch the picture because it was his and he loved hugging her picture as he slept. When he finally was able to meet her in the hospital (she was a couple of weeks old), he would cuddle her and feed her while watching Paw Patrol on his TV. His heart is never too big for someone new.

Today, JoJo is now trach free, and has a feeding tube so he can gain all of the nutrition he needs to help him progress. His organs are again in a graft of skin that his skin is growing around, just as he had it previously. My mother and I care for him and his younger sister out of our own home, where we also teach him Kindergarten. In fact, this picture was taken while we were on a nature hunt to compare different types and sizes of acorns for science! He's spunky, he's so loving. During this day, he was holding my hand, and I told him, "JoJo, you make Nana (what he calls me) very happy" and his first response was to kiss my hand and tell me that he loves me. He never has too much love to go around.

At only 5 years old, JoJo has overcome more than any person should in a lifetime. What makes him special, is that he has overcome it with a good heart towards everyone he meets. He motivates me to be as loving as he is. He motivates me to share a kind heart with everyone I meet. I aspire to do my best to show JoJo that there's nothing he can't accomplish with a good heart and motivation to do the best he can. In fact, JoJo showed that to me during his recovery, so all I need to do is remind him that it can be done, even in the most difficult of times.

Who motivates you to be a better person?

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