RANKIN COUNTY, MS (WLBT) - One of the most difficult things for a parent is learning their child has a serious illness.
A Rankin County family is preparing to head to Phoenix, Arizona for a procedure on their nine-year-old son, A.J. The process will take three separate surgical teams.
A.J.’s parents are law enforcement officers who are fighting a tough battle, but they are not alone, and they show us what it means to be Mississippi Strong.
Marcia Stingley is an investigator with the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department. Her husband Jeff Stingley has worked in law enforcement for 26 years and is a pastor. They have dedicated their lives to being public servants. But now, they are not fighting crime, they are fighting for their son. It all started one Sunday during church service.
Marcia Stingley said, “we noticed all of a sudden that there was a lump in his neck. So after service we went to the emergency room.”
Jeff Stingley said, “it was nerve wracking I must say. When it’s your baby and you’re having to run not just from a doctor but to specialists.”
That trip to the emergency room was followed by surgery and the diagnosis of something more serious and frightening.
"He was diagnosed with paraganglioma. That’s what the tumor is called. And it’s a little bit different because it sits in between the carotid artery that makes a "V" and when it sits in the artery it wraps around the arteries and the veins and the carotid is the main artery in the body," Marcia Stingley said.
His condition is rare. Only two out of every one million people each year get paraganglioma.
“The specialist said that it’s not uncommon but it’s uncommon for it to be in a child of this age," Jeff Stingley said.
A.J. will need specialized surgery that is available in Phoenix, Arizona. Facing A.J.'s illness, the trip out of state, and the medical expense has been daunting. But their fellow officers, led by Rankin County Sheriff, Bryan Bailey have showered the Stingley’s with support, prayers and a fundraiser.
Marcia Stingley said, “they said we got to work and help you get there. Help you do what you need to do.”
Donations won’t just help the Stingley’s. The Rankin County Sheriff’s Office Benevolence Fund will also help other officers when there’s need, something the Stingley’s especially appreciate.
Their faith is unshakable, they believe A.J. will be healed, and having support from their church and law enforcement family is giving them even more strength to stand Mississippi Strong to get through the toughest battle they have ever faced.
“I want to see my son be able to just enjoy being a boy.”
“He taught himself to play drums. He has a little drum set in his bedroom and he’s always teaching and learning so he’s very musically inclined. He can sing. He decided he was going to teach himself how to play the piano. So he’s working on that now.”
“We’re people of faith and all our trust is in God.”
Donations can be made directly to the family or to the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office Benevolence Fund.
The family is planning to leave for Arizona in May.