LAS VEGAS, Nov. 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Through a miraculous series of events—and with help from a one-of-a-kind charity—2-year-old Kentucky resident Jude Stephens is winning his fight against the cancer that threatened his sight.
Jude's battle began when he was just 4 months old and spiked an abnormally high fever. His mom, Aubrey, instinctively knew something was wrong, even when doctors couldn't find anything amiss. But just as the family was about to be discharged from the ER, one doctor noticed Jude's right eye wasn't focusing like it should. To be safe, she ordered an MRI.
"Thirty minutes later, the doctor came back and said the MRI had revealed a tumor on the back of Jude's right eye—and that kind of tumor is always cancerous," recalls Aubrey.
Jude was officially diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer that primarily affects children under 5. Within days, he started chemotherapy, but the treatment failed to keep his tumors from spreading.
As the family braced for a new round of chemo, Jude's doctor announced she was moving to Phoenix to work with another doctor in revolutionizing treatment for retinoblastoma. If the Stephens family wanted to follow her, she knew of an organization that would fly them there for free: Miracle Flights. The national charity provides free plane tickets to families who need assistance reaching specialized medical care not available in their local communities. For the Stephens family, the choice was obvious.
"Our options were to stay here [in Kentucky] and have Jude's eye removed or follow our doctor and see if this new treatment could save his right eye," says Aubrey. "Hearing about Miracle Flights took a lot of the pressure off us. We didn't have to figure out how were going to get him to the other side of the country every month for treatment. Our doctor just had the answer right there for us."
Aubrey and Jude boarded their first Miracle Flight on July 18, 2019, and have flown every four to six weeks since. They leave on their 15th flight today, and the prognosis looks good. As Jude enters his third year of treatment, Aubrey says he's nearing the point where tumor re-occurrence is less likely.
"Because of Miracle Flights, Jude still has both of his eyes. Being able to take him to Phoenix has meant he can get the best care for his type of cancer," she says. "Without Miracle Flights, we never would've been able to go out there in the first place. That they're still flying us 15 flights later is pretty incredible."
To help Jude continue his journey to beat cancer—or to request a Miracle Flight for your family—visit miracleflights.org.
About Miracle Flights Miracle Flights is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides free air transportation to children and adults who need help reaching specialty medical care only available far from home. The organization, founded in 1985, has provided 132,482 flights and typically books more than 600 flights per month on commercial airlines across the United States. To request a flight, learn more or donate, call 800-359-1711 or visit miracleflights.org. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.