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Richmond Child Serves as Ambassador for UK Children’s Hospitals Through National Children's Miracle Network Program

By Tammy Gay

Photo of Joseph Stephens and mother Joni Stephens
Joseph Stephens and mother Joni Stephens

For Joseph, to be 10 years old is a miracle in itself. When he was born at 34 weeks gestation with Apert Syndrome, doctors told his parents that he would never walk or talk and would not live long. Ten years later, Joseph is a bubbly, vibrant boy who attends public school in a regular classroom, enjoys playing basketball, singing and listening to music, and anything related to World War II.

 

March 17, 2003 (Lexington, Ky.) -- After a lifetime of battles, Joseph Stephens, now 10, and his parents will celebrate his good health with a visit to the White House where they will share their story with the world.

Joseph, son of Joni and Pat Stephens, will be one of 50 children — one from every state — to participate in a Children's Miracle Network program called Foresters Champions Across America and Canada. Joseph, a fourth-grade student at Kit Carson Elementary School in Richmond, Ky., was treated at University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

Selected as Kentucky’s representative in the program, Joseph will go to Washington, D.C., as an ambassador for 17 million hospitalized children.

UK Children’s Hospital, which opened in 1997, cares for more than 6,000 patients like Joseph each year. Dedicated to meeting the health care needs of children from infancy to adolescence, the staff of UK Children’s Hospital takes a family-centered care approach.

For Joseph, to be 10 years old is a miracle in itself. When he was born at 34 weeks gestation with Apert Syndrome, doctors told his parents that he would never walk or talk and would not live long. Ten years later, Joseph is a bubbly, vibrant boy who attends public school in a regular classroom, enjoys playing basketball, singing and listening to music, and anything related to World War II.

But the road for Joseph has not been easy. When Joseph was born, physicians gave Joni and Pat Stephens options – “going at it with all forces” or having the basic minimal care provided. There was no choice for the Stephens – they went for every option available. Once Joseph was transported to the UK Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, all forces focused on saving the boy’s life.

“We really didn't think this baby was going to make it,” said Nirmela S. Desai, M.D., neonatologist at the UK Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics, UK College of Medicine.

Joseph has had quite a battle in his nine years. He’s had more than 40 surgical procedures to make fingers and toes, to fix two hernias, to make more room in his skull for his brain to grow, and to help with his breathing and kidney problems.

One part of Joseph that needs no operation is his spirit.

“We’re blessed with his being here. He’s completely filled our lives and our family’s lives,” said his mother, Joni. “It’s amazing how he affects people.”

Children’s Miracle Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children by raising funds and awareness for 170 children’s hospitals throughout North America. Each year these non-profit hospitals treat 17 million children with diseases and injuries of every kind. For more information, visit www.cmn.org.

The UK Children’s Hospital will be the local beneficiary for the 16th year of the annual Children’s Miracle Network fund-raising campaign. The highlight of the campaign is the broadcast of the CMN Celebration, which will air locally June 6-8 from Fayette Mall in Lexington on WKYT-TV, channel 27 (Lexington), and WYMT-TV, channel 57 (Hazard).

All proceeds raised in Kentucky will stay in Kentucky to benefit the UK Children’s Hospital, the only participating hospital in the Commonwealth. In the past 16 years, CMN has raised more than $8 million for the UK Children’s Hospital.

For more information about UK Children’s Hospital, call (859) 257-1121.


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