NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Leg pain and lethargy prompted the Tucker family to take their son Jimi to see pediatric doctors at Arkansas Children’s (ACH) in Little Rock.
Jimi was four years old at the time. He had a physical exam, X-rays and bloodwork done and it was determined he had a blood cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
“What we thought was just going to be an outpatient visit turned into a 31 day stay,” said Jimi’s mother K.C. Turner, who’s a board member with Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW).
That 31 day stay turned into five months of impatient care at ACH and more than 100 rounds of chemotherapy. K.C. said he his immune system was practically nonexistent. He caught pneumonia and was septic.
The Tuckers had to be separated from their home and loved ones for much of Jimi’s treatment. ACNW hadn’t yet been built, so he remained in Little Rock while he received his life-saving care.
It was the staff, K.C. said, who helped make a difficult time in the family’s lives more manageable. “Nurses, the doctor’s obviously, but also administrative folks, people who brought his lunch to him, people ho helped us cleanup after he got sick, everyone just took really amazing care of him.”
Which is why the now 11-year-old thinks back on the experience fondly. “His memories are of people loving him and giving him Jell-O whenever he wanted… a preschool teacher coming in to play with him one-on-one because he couldn’t be around other people,” said K.C.
Jimi went into remission in December 2014 and is going into the sixth grade cancer free. Since the opening of ACNW in 2018, he has been able to receive his in Springdale which is much care closer to home.
The once roughly three hour drive really took a toll on the family personally and professionally, so having the campus close by has been life-changing for them. “What used to be a two day ordeal is now a couple of hours in the afternoon,” K.C. continued, “he can go to school all day long then go have his doctors appointments and checkups. then have dinner at night.”
Jimi now only has to be seen by doctors twice a year to make sure his cancer doesn’t return.
“If you met him today you wouldn’t have any idea what he’s been through or how sick he was as a little boy.”K.C. Tucker
He plays lacrosse, loves to draw, takes guitar lessons and does karate. K.C. also described him as an amazing big brother and commented that all of this wouldn’t be possible had it not been for ACH and now ACNW.
To continue serving the needs of kids, like Jimi, Arkansas Children’s Northwest will host the virtual, televised 2022 Color of Hope Gala on Saturday, August 6 at 7 p.m. on KNWA.
Throughout the 14th annual event a QR code will appear on screen that can be scanned so people can donate directly to the hospital. That money will benefit the hematology and oncology services offered there.