Profile: Being Elijah
Published 2:18 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013
“The doctors had to get the stem cells at a certain time,” Gary said. “There was a higher chance of the chemo damaging the stem cells, but you have to stay on top of chemo so the tumor doesn’t grow.”
Elijah coded a second time while he was hooked up to the apheresis machine.
“The look on the doctor’s face scared me to death,” Gary said. “He looks me straight in the face and says, ‘Get over here and talk to him.’ He also said to start calling people because they didn’t think he was going to make it through the night.”
Stem cells were reintroduced to Elijah’s body through a line protruding from his chest.
“The stem cells started leaking down his chest. I thought, ‘That’s his life running down his chest,’” Gary said.
“After chemo, he didn’t have platelets; the blood cells were gone. For 10 days, we watched him laying lifeless on the bed,” Gary said. “It was the roughest 10 days of my whole life, and I expected the worst.”
“On his birthday, February 25, 2009, the cells started working,” he added.
Two weeks before Easter 2009, the Seritts got to go home.
FINDING NEW FOOTING
“Home” for the Seritt family quickly became wherever they were together.
After losing their Childersburg home, the Seritts moved in with friends for six months before settling in with Gary’s mother in Chelsea.
“It’s not easy having your own household, and now it’s two households in one small house,” Vasiliki said.
“There’s no order, and both Elijah and Dimitra require order and structure,” Gary added, as Dimitra was diagnosed with midrange autism in late 2012.
“It’s hard for us to comprehend being the parents of two special needs children,” the Seritts wrote Dec. 6, 2012 on the Pray4elijah.com blog. “As with Elijah’s diagnosis, there was the initial feeling of anger, but soon after relief. There’s relief because we now have a name for this situation, and we can now formulate a plan to combat it.”
In early 2013, Motus Motorcycles in Birmingham hired Gary, and Vasiliki took a part-time job at Starbucks to make ends meet.
“We’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Vasiliki said.
A bright light for the family was lit when the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s men’s basketball team adopted Elijah through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.
The adoption ceremony was held in mid-December 2012, and Elijah got to visit the team’s locker room after the game.
“They definitely treat him like he’s part of the UAB family,” Garry said. “He calls them his basketball brothers. They used to be his ‘buddies,’ but now they’re his brothers. It seems like it’s giving him some confidence.”
Elijah still returns to Children’s Hospital for a yearly MRI, but continues to grow and develop like any other child.
“He’s just a little fireball and doesn’t let anything get him down,” said Washburn, who keeps in touch with the family via Facebook. “When he was diagnosed, he was just a baby. Now here he is walking around, and that’s something they never dreamed of.”
Vasiliki said Elijah’s biggest issues are behavior related.
“He’s dealing with things he can’t do that he sees other kids doing. He’s so sweet, but when he gets frustrated, it’s like fighting a grown person. He’s so strong,” Vasiliki said while watching her husband play with Elijah on the Chelsea playground.
As a result of his brain tumor, surgeons removed a portion of Elijah’s cerebellum, which affects his with balance and fine motor skills. His left eye’s depth of field was also affected by his surgeries.
“He hasn’t cried since his first brain surgery,” Gary said, keeping an eye on his children as they traversed the slide. “Even with laughter, he mimics it. It will probably sound almost robotic because it’s a learned-type thing. It’s not involuntary. You can tell when he’s happy. My biggest fear is for when he gets older people won’t think he’s sensitive.”
Vasiliki said her son is “as smart as they come.”
“I wonder, ‘When will be the time to explain to him what he’s been through?’ We just want to let him be a kid,” she said.