ATLANTA - A hospital can be scary for most, but one family calls Children's Healthcare of Atlanta their second home thanks to an incredible story that starts with their 5-year-old son.
Andrew Hall, now a 5-year-old thriving in preschool, had a rough start.
His mother tells Channel 2's Kimberly Richardson he was born in 2012 with a metabolic disorder, which was discovered before birth during a genetic screen.
"At 9 days old, Andrew had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital," mother Jena Hall said.
His mother explains that soon after came a dairy allergy, a hernia and then a subsequent surgery.
Needless to say Jon and Jena Hall spent many days over the next several months at Scottish Rite.
"I'd never stepped into a hospital before," Jena said. "It was my biggest fear!"
Jena told Richardson she also has two older children, but neither of them had been to the hospital. She believes that those early experiences with Andrew prepared their family for the big challenge that came next: cancer.
Around 4 months, Jena said she noticed that the left side of Andrew's back seemed more muscular than his right.
They had it checked out at by a pediatrician, who Jena says didn’t raise any concerns.
The next 6 months were relatively calm and passed smoothly, with Andrew meeting his milestones.
But suddenly on July 1, 2013, at 10 months old, Jena tells Richardson he stopped crawling and seemed to have a loss of sensation in his legs.
They rushed him to the ER, where an initial scan didn’t reveal a diagnosis, but Children’s ER nurse Jason Pinchok was in the room, working on paperwork to send Andrew to neurology for more tests – and what happened next changed everything.
"My husband just came to bring me lunch and was asking, 'What about his back?'" And that's when Jason said, “I’ve heard you both mention his back now. Let’s ask for another X-ray.”
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After another spine X-ray, Andrew was admitted to the Aflac Cancer floor immediately.
On July 2, 2013, Jena says Andrew was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a tumor mass on his spine, and underwent a 6-hour emergency surgery to relieve tension and prevent paralysis.
Jason visited Andrew at Aflac a few days later to check on him. The Hall family was in and out of Scottish Rite for the next 6 months as Andrew received eight rounds of outpatient chemo treatment.
Luckily, the cancer hadn’t spread to his bone marrow yet, but Jena says the tumor was aggressive.
It was determined that another surgery would be necessary to fight the tumor. Dr. John Bleacher and Dr. William Boydston performed the surgery in February 2014.
Doctors were able to get 90-percent of the tumor, previously considered inoperable as it sat so close to the spine, which Jena calls “a miracle.”
In January 2017, one year ago this month, Andrew’s MRI scan was clear for the first time, showing no evidence of disease.
Now, the 5-year-old is loving school, on the baseball team, playing with his dog Violet and two older sisters, and living as a healthy and functioning little boy.
The Hall family tells Richardson they will never forget Jason and his role in Andrew’s story, and are well aware it could have been a different outcome if they didn’t catch it when they did.
"We consider him our angel," Jena said. "Jason saved Andrew's life."
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