JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital first became a part of the lives of Ann and Liza, and the rest of their family, when Liza was a tiny baby.
“A year to the day before Liza goes to the hospital, my sister’s son Brad, who was 5 years old, was diagnosed with leukemia. So we had already been at St. Jude for a year and we loved it,” Ann says.
That’s when Liza developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. Ann’s persistence over time prompted pediatricians to do an x-ray, then the family visited Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
“A doctor came in and they told us that Liza had a very large mass in her right thoracic cavity and we would be transferred to St. Jude,” Ann tells us. “As we walked in those doors, I remember feeling all kinds of different things, fear and scared but also very hopeful because we knew St. Jude was the best possible place for our children to be, my nephew and my daughter.”
The family says Liza’s condition, pleuropulmonary blastoma, was one that St. Jude had seen only once before.
“So there really wasn’t a protocol to treat it until St. Jude came up with it. We’re so lucky St. Jude can be so innovative with their patients and their treatments. Honestly I don’t know if I would be here today without it,” Liza says.
Her treatment included chemotherapy and the removal of her right lung. However, that led to scoliosis, or a curvature of the spine, at age 12. In Liza’s case, the curvature was cramping the one lung she had left. They had to go to Texas for that surgery, an experimental procedure that insurance would not cover. Because of that, Ann says, the hospital refused to perform it.
St. Jude stepped up again.
“I think mom got the call from Dr. Hudson and she said that St. Jude was going to cover that surgery, because once you’re a patient there you’re always a patient there,” Liza tells us.
Liza said St. Jude ensured not only that she would survive, but that she would thrive.
Now, at 29 years old, Liza works for ALSAC, the hospital’s fundraising arm which arranges events like the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. In addition, she’s headed to nursing school in the fall so she can continue to give back.
“They give all kinds of hope. They never let you give up,” Ann says.
Tickets for the 2020 St. Jude Dream Home are dwindling down quickly! There are fewer than 500 left! Visit Dreamhome.org or call 800-371-6789 to reserve your ticket today!