Child of Children’s – Jaamal Jones, Dothan, Alabama
By Jennifer Walker-Journey
The night doctors said they did all they could do for 5-year-old Jaamal Jones, his aunt Barbara Curry says a miracle happened.
It was late at night and she was with Jaamal’s family in the ICU waiting room at Children’s Hospital of Alabama, where Jaamal had been for more than 10 weeks. But that night was different. Jaamal had taken a turn for the worse. The little boy’s body was giving out and doctors told the family to prepare. It was unlikely Jaamal would survive past midnight.
Jaamal’s family made arrangements with a funeral home. And they prayed. It had been a long three months. Jaamal, who lived in Dothan, was an active little boy. But one day after playing outside at his grandmother’s house, he became ill. His fever soared and nothing his family tried could break it. His mother took him to the doctor, and when a strep test turned out negative, Jaamal was sent home with a round of antibiotics.
The medication didn’t help. Jaamal was getting sicker and sicker. His mother, Brenda Jones, called her sister, Barbara, who was a pediatric nurse. The little boy’s fever had reached 106 and he was having trouble breathing. Barbara told Brenda to take Jaamal to the emergency room. It was Barbara who insisted the doctor admit him to the hospital.
Doctors first thought a tick had infected Jaamal with Lyme disease. Or that he had contracted meningitis. But nothing they tried seem to help Jaamal, and a decision was made to transport the little boy by air ambulance to Children’s Hospital. As a pediatric nurse, some of Barbara’s patients had been referred to Children’s and she was confident they could help.
Once Jaamal arrived at Children’s, doctors diagnosed him with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. He also had fluid on his lungs that made breathing difficult. Barbara understood immediately how grave the situation was. “I just couldn’t believe it,” she says. Doctors put Jaamal in a drug-induced coma and put him on a ventilator to help him breathe.
“They taped his eyes down and everything,” Brenda recalls. “It was very difficult to see.”
For the next 10 weeks, Jaamal laid in a bed in the ICU while his family prayed. “I was pretty out of it at that time,” Brenda says. “Doctors said I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”
During those long weeks, Jaamal’s family got to know the doctors, nurses and staff at Children’s and they were grateful for the care and support they gave not only to the gravely ill Jaamal, but to the family as well. “They were so wonderful to us,” Barbara says. “I thank God for Children’s Hospital.”
But on that night Jaamal took a turn for the worse 10 weeks after being admitted to Children’s, his family prepared to say goodbye. They visited him in the ICU, and then left his bedside to sit in the waiting room until the next opportunity to see him. It was late, and Barbara had drifted off to sleep. She dreamed that a nurse had come to the waiting room and said, “Come, let me show you what Jaamal is doing.” When they got to the room, Jaamal was sitting up and playing. Barbara woke from the dream, believing it was a reassurance from God. That’s when she realized it was past midnight – the hour doctors said Jaamal likely wouldn’t live to. She jumped up and waked the family. “It’s after midnight. Let’s go see what Jaamal is doing,” she said.
The family rushed to his room and found Jaamal’s doctor at his bedside. The doctor said the most amazing thing had happened. He was checking on Jaamal when the little boy began to cough. The doctor pulled the tape off the ventilator to help clear the boy’s throat, when Jaamal coughed again and the ventilator came out. And then, miraculously, Jaamal began breathing on his own.
“We started running and shouting and crying. We were just so happy,” Barbara recalls.
It was a slow recovery. Jaamal stayed in Children’s for another two weeks before he was allowed to go home. He needed respiratory and speech therapy. And after living through such trauma, Jaamal was scared and his spirits needed lifting. Barbara checked her 10-year-old son Sean Curry out of school and had him visit Jaamal in the hospital. “And that got him out of bed,” Barbara says. With the help of a strong team of doctors, nurses and therapists, Jaamal gradually improved. “They all fell in love with him,” Barbara says. “They were dynamic with him.”
Jaamal is now 33 years old. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and three children. One of his lungs never fully recovered, which can cause problems when he has respiratory infections. But otherwise, he is healthy. And he still remembers his stay in Children’s Hospital.
“We talk about it all the time,” Barbara says, “because it was a miracle. It really was.”