Tatum, Hometown Hero
"Our family had the strength to beat cancer."
Jasmine Crowell of Killeen knew something was wrong when her active toddler suddenly began to look depressed one August day in 2006. Little Tatum’s once joyous expressions and gleeful giggles had turned into moans and groans and he stopped eating and walking. She took him to his pediatrician, and an x-ray revealed news no mother of any 18-month-old would ever expect to hear – liver cancer. Doctors immediately admitted Tatum to the Children’s Hospital at Scott & White. They administered four pints of blood into Tatum’s weak body that same day and started chemotherapy later that week. With each round of chemo, Tatum had to have blood transfusions to replace the white blood cells that chemotherapy is notorious for destroying.
Tatum’s dad, Josh, was serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq, fighting for this country, when he learned the grim news that his little boy was fighting for his life. The Army quickly brought Josh home to be with his family and to help his wife through this difficult time.
Five months later, little Tatum had endured six rounds of chemotherapy, which began to take a toll on his little body. The family decided to chance fate and discontinued the chemotherapy for a month and a half in order to get Tatum on the transplant list for a new liver. Amazingly, after only 10 days of being on the list, the family got the news that a liver was on its way.
“He was really sick at this point. The liver wasn’t a direct match, but it was close enough,” Jasmine said.
The family drove to a Dallas Hospital that night to await the arrival of Tatum’s liver, which was traveling via airplane from Hershey, Pa. They waited and waited for many excruciating hours, knowing in the backs of their minds that the liver needed to be transplanted into Tatum within 10 hours for it to retain its viability.
“The surgeon finally came in and said the plane that was carrying Tatum’s liver had to perform an emergency landing in Kentucky,” Jasmine explained.
It had been more than 20 hours and options for Tatum were looking anything but favorable now. The doctor laid out their options: they could put the 22-hour-old liver in Tatum with the expectation that his body would reject the aged organ, or they could nix the operation and put Tatum back on the donor list. The latter option would leave them unsure if they would even have another donor before it was too late.
“We were on bide time,” Jasmine said. “We prayed and talked and finally decided to not believe in the statistics and we put the 22-hour-old liver in Tatum. That night, we were thinking we were going to lose him. So we just went for it.”
Miraculously, the liver worked perfectly.
After his transplant, the family made their way back to Scott & White where Tatum received two more rounds of chemotherapy and several more blood transfusions, which he finished in April. Tatum, who recently celebrated his third birthday, has been in remission since June and is today considered cancer-free.
Jasmine and Josh often lovingly think about the organ donor and the many blood donors who selflessly gave to help save their young son’s life.
“I feel like half of the people in Central Texas and a little girl in Pennsylvania all came together to help save his life,” she said. “When he needed the blood, it was there. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, if the blood wasn’t there, what would we do?’”
A community of Hometown Heroes can be proud for playing a key role in saving Tatum.
“Thank you doesn’t even seem to come close to what it means to us that so many people have given to help save his life,” Jasmine said. “You don’t think about it until you are in that situation. Thank God that people donate.”