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BIRMINGHAM – 13 year old James Strong, a 7th grader at Berry Middle School has been named this year’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Alabama Champion. James will serve as a fundraising and awareness ambassador for Children’s of Alabama and all children treated at the North American charity’s 170 member hospitals.
“James is a fighter, and he has always been a fighter,” says his mother, Kim Mitchell. “I taught him at a very young age that ‘he can do ALL things through Christ that strengthens him’ and now the kid feels as if he can do just as much as any able-bodied child.”
When Kim was 5 months pregnant, she learned her baby would have hydrocephalus and would need a shunt placed in his brain immediately after birth. In addition to hydrocephalus and a spinal cord tumor, James also suffers from Dandy-Walker Syndrome, mild cerebral palsy, cranio-cerebral disproportion and Chiari malformation.
To date, James has had more than 20 surgeries to replace his shunt and to address some of his other conditions – and the 9th Floor at Children’s of Alabama has become a second home to him and his mother. “The nurses on the neuro floor have taken care of James since his first shunt revision at age 3 and on through his most recent spinal cord surgery,” Kim says. “They know him not as a patient but as a member of the Children’s ‘family.’”
But James does not focus on his disability. He is determined to live large despite the fact that he is wheelchair bound and suffering from an inoperable spinal cord tumor. He plays basketball and tennis, loves to swim and is passionate about his Alabama Crimson Tide football team. He works to raise awareness and funds for children who struggle with life-threatening medical conditions, and he is a mentor to younger children. He also inspired his mother to achieve her dream of being a teacher who holds a master’s degree in collaborative special education. James’ mother says, “He is literally a one in a million kid, and I’m glad that God chose me to take care of such a delicate angel who is determined to be a light without even knowing he is shining.”
Every year, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champions program identifies a child with a remarkable medical story from each state. These Champions serve as ambassadors for the millions of children treated at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals annually. The Champions and their family will travel to Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla. For one week in October to meet with media and delegates to highlight the vital work taking place at Children’s Hospitals.
Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children since 1911, offering inpatient and outpatient services throughout central Alabama. Last year, families made more than 634,000 outpatient and nearly 14,000 inpatient visits to Children’s from every county in Alabama and from 47 other states. With more than 2 million square feet, Children’s is the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. and has been ranked among the top children’s hospital programs in the country for the past three years by US News & World Report. More information is available at www.childrensal.org.