St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Affects the Life of a Valley Family

Nov 09, 2012 No Comments by

Fresno, Calif. – It began as a typical day for 6-year-old Auston Sperling this past January, with his parents Dustin and Jill Sperling dropping him off at school where they lived in Kingsburg before they both went to work.

In the middle of the day his parents received a call from the school, with the news that Auston was feeling ill and was having trouble walking and communicating through speech.  His parents immediately took him to his pediatrician, who said the symptoms might have been caused from pressure and swelling in his head.

Auston was next taken to Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera, where lab work was done and a CT scan conducted to discover the issue.  The CT scan showed a walnut-sized tumor at the stem of his brain, and Children’s Hospital staff recommended emergency surgery to resect the tumor.  The surgery was done overnight, and 98 percent of the tumor was removed.

“It’s the darkest day that you can imagine,” Dustin Sperling said of his son’s diagnosis.  “It turns your world upside down, and it’s very difficult emotionally.”

Auston had been diagnosed with a condition called medulloblastoma, a cancer of the brain, and he faced a two-week recovery period before beginning radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  Dustin and Jill spent time researching different hospitals and facilities before deciding that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.  was the place their son should be treated, even though it would separate their family and burden them financially.  Dustin and Auston left behind Jill and Auston’s younger sister, Avery, for what would be an 8-month period.

Dustin says the moment he and Auston met Dr. Gajjar, he felt encouraged.  Dr. Gajjar entered the hospital room, passed by Dustin completely, knelt before Auston and shook his hand.

“He proceeded to have a 5-minute conversation with Auston, as if I wasn’t even in the room,” Dustin said.  “At that moment, I knew that we were in the right place, we were in the place that was going to get him the treatment he needed.”

Dustin said that at St. Jude there is a sense of family, and doctors and staff make patients and their families as comfortable as possible.  Auston was even sung to on his birthday, and Dustin told stories of Silly String and ice cream.  The comfort didn’t stop later on when cancer cells were discovered in Auston’s spinal fluid.  Dr. Gajjar embraced the father and son and told them they all would fight the disease together.

31 rounds of radiation left Auston weakened and losing his hair, but he never seemed to stop smiling through the difficult process.

“I really developed a lot of respect for him as a parent,” Dustin said.

Auston will be going back to St. Jude every few months for the next 5 years for follow-up visits, and right now he has a clean bill of health.

“There’s no evidence of disease right now, and so there’s a sense of reassurance that comes about as a result of that,” Dustin said.  “We definitely enjoy being back together as a family again.”

Information from research done at St. Jude is shared with hospitals and other facilities around the world, including Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera.  Every year since 2007, De Young Properties has been the builder and major donor of the St. Jude Dream Home.  The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway has raised $.4 million to date for the hospital through the purchase of $100 raffle tickets, and the $375,000 home in De Young Properties’ Chestnut Grove will be given away this Sunday on KMPH FOX 26.  This Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the final day to tour the home.

Tickets can be reserved at all Fresno County Federal Credit Union branches and Fresno Coin Gallery locations through Friday, Nov. 9. Visit www.dreamhome.org or call 1-800-543-5887 for directions or more information. Other sponsors of the fundraising campaign include De Young Properties, KMPH FOX 26, 106.7 KJUG, Univision Radio, The Fresno Bee, Business Street Online, Mor Furniture for Less, Fresno County Federal Credit Union, Fresno Coin Gallery, Alpha Delta Kappa, Epsilon Sigma Alpha and national sponsors Shaw Floors and Brizo.

Contact Associate Editor James Olinger at 1-888-989-4448 ext. 1.

 

Headlines, Health Care

About the author

James Olinger is a native of the San Joaquin Valley. He graduated from West Hills College in Coalinga, California in 2000 with an associate's degree in liberal arts. He joined Business Street in 2004 as a staff writer, and became the associate editor in 2007. He maintains that position today, writing for Business Street Online in a variety of topics.
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