“Feels like home”: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital saves patient’s life for two decades

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 10:44 AM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Caleb does not remember the day he was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Hurler’s Syndrome, but his mother Kelly Waddell does.

“He was 13 months old at the time,” said Waddell. “The geneticist looked at him and said, ‘I think I’ve seen your son in a book before.’”

The diagnosis meant a slew of likely issues for Caleb.

“He would have been blind, would have been deaf, his organs would have failed, and he would not be able to walk,” said Waddell. “He was supposed to die between the age of 5 and 10.”

Caleb, now 20 years old, credits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for helping him to defy those odds. His mother agrees. When no other doctor could help, St. Jude could.

“Just coming into the hospital, just being given that glimmer of what the future could hold,” said Waddell. “We got there, and the weight of the world was lifted.”

Caleb’s treatment began with a bone marrow transplant, but that is not where it ended. Over the past 19 years, Caleb has received treatment at St. Jude for heart, kidney, and mobility issues related to Hurler’s Syndrome.

Waddell has never once received a bill.

“I would be scared to know what his tab has run up to,” said Waddell with a laugh.

At St. Jude, no family pays for treatment, housing, or food. For Caleb and his family, that value would be difficult to calculate.

“Many of the patients that get to come in and get their treatments and their cures and they leave,” said Waddell. “Well, Caleb doesn’t have a cure, so St. Jude has continued to fight for him for 19 years.”

Fortunately, St. Jude has countless programs, events, and initiatives to make patients like Caleb feel comfortable, even happy, to walk through its doors.

For Caleb, it “feels kind of normal,” to go for visits. “Feels like I’m being sent home,” Caleb said.

“That, and I get the people that care about me and asked about me and actually care about me and my family,” said Caleb. “Plus, I get to do a lot of cool stuff.”

You can support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and win a house in Bryan at the same time by buying a $100 raffle ticket for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway.

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