As a teenage mom at home bonding with her three-day-old newborn, Jaquitta was devastated when she received a call from the hospital. They called to bluntly inform her that Stennis had sickle cell disease. She was aware that sickle cell is an incurable blood disorder that leads to a life of pain and deterioration, but hearing her newborn had it, made her emotionally distraught. "I laid my son down and just looked at him from a distance, afraid to be close to him as I envisioned the agony that would be my future, I didn't want to think of losing him."
"Three years later, I was excited about Stennis’ first day of Head-Start. Out of nowhere, he spiked a fever, which always had to be treated as an emergency. The ER doctor diagnosed Stennis with walking pneumonia, gave us prescriptions, and sent us home. By the next day, Stennis’ eyes turned yellow, and he was screaming in pain. We went to the Emergency Room and was sent by ambulance to Batson’s Children's Hospital. He calmed down a little after he is given morphine for pain, but his speech was slurred. I mistakenly associated this with the medication. Doctors swarmed into his room almost immediately to take him to intensive care, recalled Jaquitta. In route to intensive care, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he began to shriek, and his body started flipping erratically. I was unable to console him. As the doors to the ICU closed in my face, I became hysterical. When I saw him again, he was in a sedated coma, on a ventilator, and had undergone multiple strokes and seizures, received blood and even had few of his major organs shut down. Test results revealed that he’d contracted meningitis, a staph infection in his bloodstream, accumulated pneumonia, and a yeast infection in his lungs. Doctors informed me that he would have severe brain damage.
After a few weeks, he woke up with his eyes crossed, his mouth twisted, unable to speak or function on his left side. Fluid had accumulated around his brain. Attempts to drain it with a lumbar puncture were unsuccessful, so a permanent shunt was placed."
That didn't stop Stennis, he fought hard and progressed over the next few weeks. He went through speech and physical therapy. He regained feeling on his left side, rode a therapy tricycle and even sang nursery rhymes. By the time he was released from the hospital, Stennis was talking and walking.
After the strokes, Stennis had to receive blood transfusions every four weeks for the last seven years of his life. He has accumulated iron-overload that created a mass in his liver. He takes several medications daily. Sickle cell complications can be spontaneous, and at times very frustrating for Stennis’ and his family. It often interrupts school, birthday parties, family events, etc. "The majority of the time, Stennis’ joy, and laughter know no end; he is always the clown in the room. Without knowing his story, a stranger would never guess his underlying circumstances. Other times, Stennis cries and complains that he’s tired of being sick and tired of the doctor appointments. He is deaf in one ear, from the strokes and he keeps his cochlear implant in his book-bag because he's tired of having to explain what it is, said Juquitta.
Throughout the years, we’ve learned to give thanks in all things, as God instructs us too. It’s not every day you meet a miracle like Stennis, and that is what I remind him of often. Everyone has a story, and the older he gets Stennis’ is learning that his in a blessing to share with others.
A mother desires to give her children the world and watch them excel at all their dreams and ambitions. Football is what Stennis loves more than anything; it’s what he dreams of participating in one day. However, due to the shunt placement in his brain, contact sports are off limits for Stennis. When contemplating his wish, I’d encouraged him to wish big … I wanted him to wish beyond what I could give him. And he did just that. I can strive to provide him with many things, but I can’t make his dream of participating in football, come true. Make-A-Wish & the Miami Dolphins worked hard and put him closer to his vision than imaginable: on the practice field, in the locker room, on the sidelines during a game of his favorite NFL team. It was impeccable to see, and to listen to him talk about every day since. 20 years from now, when his peers, or maybe even his children are talking about football, he’ll have his own football story to tell. As his wish trip came to an end, Stennis said to me, 'Mama I thought I was only supposed to get one wish, but I got a lot of wishes.' Referring to his first ride above the clouds, his first visit to the Miami beaches, & his first limo ride.
Not only do miracles happen every day, but wishes come true too, and his wish is something we’ll cherish always. Thanks so much, Make-A-Wish."