TJ Cunningham, a 22-month-old Dublin toddler who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy, has traveled to the U.S. with his family to undergo two stages of brain surgery.
While being treated in Detroit Children's Medical Center a series of fundraisers have been held throughout Dublin and in his native, Tallaght to help cover the costs of medical bills. In addition to events being held in Ireland, TJ also has a large family base in New York and Nassau County, Long Island who are working endlessly to spread the word and to advertise benefits across NYC in the upcoming weeks in aid of TJ.
TJ was born perfectly healthy in May 2011 and was a normal baby only having some sleep issues. At 13 -months, TJ had his first seizure sitting in his high chair, just hours after his 13 month vaccination. Three weeks later he was diagnosed with a rare and severe form of epilepsy called 'Infantile Spasms'. After many hospital admissions, MRI scans, CT scan, EEG's, lumber puncture, endless amounts of needles, drugs and sleepless nights TJ is continuing to get worse week by week. He now has over 100 seizures every day. No medicine has been of any advantage to TJ, it only cause him terrible side effects.
This is why TJ needs to have major brain surgery before he is two-years-old. The toddler underwent surgery on Thursday, March 7 in the Detroit Children's Medical Center. The hospital in Michigan is one of the best hospitals in the world for treating Infantile Spasms. IrishCentral spoke to TJ's mother’s step mother, Ellen Keneally who lives in New York and she said, "TJ is doing well after his first surgery. Over the course of five hours, electrodes were implanted to monitor and track where the seizures are coming from- this part of the specialized treatment could not be received in Ireland. Part two of the surgery was scheduled for Thursday the 14th of March toremove the areas identified by the electrodes ." The surgery was since moved forward to Tuesday, March 12th where surgeons were to remove most of the right side of TJ's brain.
Leah and Tony, TJ's parents say TJ is doing well and will just be at TJ's side trying to keep him comfortable, but they remain positive.
The neurologist and surgeon are optimistic that TJ will regain lost abilities such as his ability to walk, talk, sit and communicate and has every possibility for a normal childhood, with time and therapy.
As medical staff do the best to save TJ's life, the Irish community in New York can do their bit by attending upcoming benefits and donating in various ways to help give TJ the life he deserves.
The Long Island Epilepsy foundation has helped the family tremendously and they are taking donations in TJ’s name on their website. TJ's mother has made a Youtube video documenting TJ's story and created a Facebook page following 'TJ's epilepsy journey'. There is also links on this page where you can donate.
A benefit with all proceeds going to TJ has already been held on Long Island and there are two upcoming events. The next benefit will be held on Saturday April 13 at Mickey Malones- 381 Jericho TPKE, Floral Park, NY starting at 2pm. Three vacations are to be raffled to Mexico, Miami and a night at the Fitzpatrick Hotel, NYC with airfare included. Tickets will be sold at the events, along with baskets to be given away.
All money raised at benefits already held in Ireland and here in the states are an attempt to help deter the costs of the Cunningham's extreme medical bills in their bid to save their beautiful sons life.
The family and extended family here in New York are overwhelmed by the support they have received already, so let's hope it continues.
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