St. Jude Children’s Hospital has always been an important part of the Dawson family’s life—Missy, a nurse, did her clinicals at the hospital, and she and husband, Ryan, were Partners in Hope for years. But in 2011, their connection with St. Jude became even closer. Their daughter, Payton, got sick.
“She had a fever of unknown origin for three days. She was hallucinating, and we couldn’t get the fever down. The lab work wouldn’t register on the hospital’s machine, so they did more lab work. I knew her labs were bad when I saw them. I knew she had cancer.”
Payton was diagnosed with leukemia at three years old. She wasn’t the only one. Within a short span of time, Missy says, there seemed to be several children diagnosed. Four or five families in Murray were dealing with the same circumstances as the Dawson’s, including a boy named Jorge, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and later passed away.
Seeing so many families impacted in such a major way inspired the Dawson’s to give back to the hospital that had helped them through one of the hardest times in their life: St. Jude. They banded together with other parents and friends of children who had been diagnosed with cancer—including Becky English, a friend of Jorge’s family—to create Murray Miracles, a group of families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. The group hosts several events to help raise money for St. Jude.
“We do golf tournaments, 5k races, and women’s nights at Murray Country Club to help raise money to donate to St. Jude,” Missy says. “The golf tournament is our largest event. It raises $10 – $15,000 every year. Business owners in the community sponsor a hole and come out to play.”
Missy and Ryan felt it was important to give back to St. Jude because of how well they had treated Payton and their family during the years she received treatment. The hospital paid for all the family’s transportation both in Memphis and Murray, as well as emergency room visits. Even after treatment, St. Jude continued to care for Payton.
“After the last treatment, Payton developed sepsis,” Missy says. We took her to the ER, and they sent us to Memphis. We were warned that usually the situation doesn’t end well when kids get this kind of sepsis, but St. Jude took us back and treated Payton, and now she’s a thriving ten-year-old who’s in theatre and gymnastics. We felt it was really important that everyone who had to endure this had the same amazing experience we did.”
Chrystie Chapman’s family has experienced firsthand the overwhelming support both from St. Jude and Murray Miracles. She became involved with Murray Miracles after her son, Carson, was diagnosed with cancer in 2012.
“Carson got diagnosed on a rainy Friday the 13th,” Chrystie said. “Originally, we thought he had lymphoma instead of leukemia because there was a mass in the x-ray. But when we got to St. Jude, within six hours, they had an initial diagnosis that it was leukemia. They then laid out a roadmap of a two-and-a-half-year journey.”
For Chrystie, Carson, and the rest of the family, that journey consisted of staying a few weeks at a time in Memphis, before coming back to Murray. During those weeks at the hospital, they developed close relationships with Carson’s doctors and nurses.
“On one trip, Carson wanted a bracket for March Madness, but we couldn’t print them at the hotel. One of the nurses was a Jayhawks fan and printed a bracket out, but realized after her shift that she’d forgotten to give it to him. She came over to the Ronald McDonald house to give him his brackets. That same nurse came to hear Carson speak at a function. We have several doctors and nurses who send Christmas cards. Carson’s a senior now, and I know I’ll send a few nurses graduation invitations.”
Having a support group in Murray Miracles was invaluable to Chrystie, who turned to the other parents for assistance and guidance.
“If I needed something from home and one of them were coming to St. Jude, they were always willing to bring it,” she says. “If something was going wrong, they were the first people we called. For example, fever’s such a huge thing for kids with cancer, so when Carson got a fever, I was able to call Misty for advice.”
Being able to give back, Chrystie says, almost takes her breath away. While her job as a teacher doesn’t allow her to help with the golf scramble, she helps with the 5k and the little black dress dinner. This year, she’s also going to try and participate in the Math-a-Thon. She finds the support the community has given to Murray Miracles inspiring.
“The community of Murray is dedicated to the fight for cancer research and supporting,” Chrystie says. “They’re quick to support anything we do. I can’t remember any event that failed. People just show up and go above and beyond. Even when there’s bad weather and we have to reschedule, people never get upset or angry. They’re just grateful that they’re still able to support St. Jude.”
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