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.
And, later this year, he’ll represent Alabama as a Champion ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Thirteen-year-old James Strong is determined to live large – despite the fact that he is now wheelchair-bound and suffering from an inoperable spinal cord tumor.
“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. James does not see himself as having a disability.”
When Kim was 5 months pregnant, she learned her baby would have hydrocephalus and would need a ventriculoperitoneal shunt placed in his brain immediately after birth. James’ shunts have failed numerous times – resulting in several revisions, one infection on his brain and a number of developmental delays. In addition to hydrocephalus and the 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.’”
Kim says she also is thankful for Children’s dynamic Rehabilitation Medicine team for providing the “love, determination and support” she needed to learn how to care for James after he became confined to a wheelchair.
“My Strong 1 is one of a kind,” she adds. “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.”