Paying Back, Paying Forward
by Robin Stevens, Contributing Writer -- Email News
Apr 27, 2011 | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Craft has been tumor-free for nine years thanks in large part to the work of doctors at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. This weekend, the Trigg County Riding Club will host Craft’s “Saddle Up for St. Jude” benefit at the Trigg County Recreation Complex.
Craft has been tumor-free for nine years thanks in large part to the work of doctors at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. This weekend, the Trigg County Riding Club will host Craft’s “Saddle Up for St. Jude” benefit at the Trigg County Recreation Complex.
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At 16, Abbie Craft is like many girls her age – a steady boyfriend; an older brother, Tyler; and a love of horses so deep-seated that she learned to ride – barrel racing, no less.

You’d never guess that at three-and-a-half, Abbie’s future was uncertain.

The problem began with a limp which became leg tremors, then outright seizures. Within a month, they knew: brain tumor. Nightmarish words would become routine for her parents, Eddie and Tiffany, words like resection, craniotomy, and, worst of all, progression.

Two surgeries followed Abbie’s diagnosis at Vanderbilt University Medical Center – the first to map Abbie’s brain, the second to remove the tumor.

“They told us I wouldn’t be able to walk for a while,” Abbie said, but she was walking in recovery. “Mom cried.”

Three days later, a post-operative MRI revealed a new tumor.

“They looked at the pre-op MRI, and it wasn’t there,” Tiffany said.

With this tumor closer to Abbie’s motor strip, her doctor feared surgery would leave her partially paralyzed, so the Crafts went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis for a second opinion, hoping to qualify for treatment.

“We did a week’s worth of testing,” Tiffany said. “It was grueling.”

At the end of the week, Tiffany finally asked a burning question. Would St. Jude accept Abbie as a patient?

“The doctor said, ‘The moment you walked in the door we accepted you all. The question is, do you accept us?’”

The answer seemed obvious.

“What you see on TV about St. Jude is absolutely accurate,” Tiffany said. “They’re leading the way with research, but what’s amazing is they want to make sure you truly focus on your child and making her better. They don’t want you to worry about financial things.”

It was a huge blessing. Their cost after insurance at Vanderbilt just for the hospital and surgeon was more than $30,000. Thanks to the extensive media coverage Abbie’s story received and people’s donations, those bills were covered.

Over the next few years, she needed seven more surgeries and, finally, 30 radiation treatments to shrink an inoperable tumor, but the Crafts didn’t owe a dime.

“We never saw another bill,” Tiffany said.

St. Jude even paid travel expenses, provided a place to stay at Griffin House – an on-site hotel for patients – and supplied meal vouchers.

Abbie has been tumor-free for almost nine years, and the only side effects seem to be seizures she controls with medication and a suffocating aversion to the smell of rubbing alcohol. Both Abbie and her parents credit a God-given miracle, part of which is St. Jude.

Now Abbie’s ready to give back.

Saddle Up for St. Jude will be Saturday, April 30, at the Trigg County Recreation Complex. Her goal is to raise $3,000.

“Abbie has wanted to do this for about a year,” her mother said.

The Trigg County Riding Club agreed to help, giving up their show date at the Complex for Abbie’s cause, and the non-profit organization has accepted financial responsibility for all donations and supplied insurance for the event.

Yahtzee Run registration will be from 1 to 2 p.m. for both riders and walkers.

The Fun Show begins at 4 p.m., including games like the Baby Bottle Race and the Monkey Run. Abbie’s favorite? Barrel racing, obviously.

“I am beast at barrel racing,” she said, laughing. “I’m really not, but I love it.”

A concert will follow at 6 p.m. Complex Convention Center, featuring renowned Elvis impersonator Jeff Seton, Johnny Cash impersonator Frank Hamilton, and local band The Cruisers. Donated items will be auctioned off during the show, including a huge, lime green skateboard made by Abbie’s uncle. With locking wheels and the St. Jude logo, it was intended as a playroom table at the hospital, but “they were afraid kids would jump off and get hurt,” Abbie said, as she climbed on the skateboard, striking a pose.

Of course, she jumped off, an impossible feat without St. Jude.

“I can look back on this and say, ‘I’m grateful to God for letting me have the experience I did, even though it was painful at times,’” Abbie said. “I’m stronger because of what happened.”

Abbie’s benefit is all about gratitude, paying back a little of what St. Jude gave to her – a future.

Or maybe it’s about paying it forward, helping some other little girl have a future that otherwise might not be so promising.
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