A little boy who has already overcome incredible odds has a few more hurdles in his future.
Jaxson Dodson may be but little, but he's gone through a lot in his short 14 months of life. When his mother, Cynthia Beverlin, went to her 20-week ultrasounds, which is normally when gender is determined, she got surprising news. Her doctors noted multiple defects, including a spinal fluid brain cyst, cleft palate, club feet, heart defects and hypoplastic kidneys.
Although doctors suggested to Cynthia that she terminate the pregnancy, she refused and instead got a second opinion. She continued to get multiple ultrasounds for the duration of her pregnancy and was told at 36 weeks pregnant that she would be able to deliver her baby, but the newborn would stand only a 50-50 chance of survival.
Cynthia beat the odds by delivering Jaxson, who was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit. Jaxson had several seizures during his first four to five days of life, but Cynthia's little boy continued to beat the odds and went home after 34 days in the NICU.
"When we finally did get home, we had the whole nurses, we had the occupational therapists, three different physical therapists, early school year teacher, vision impairment teacher," Beverlin said. "I have him signed up for children at home, I have him signed up for anything and everything because I just want him to thrive and I want to prove that he's supposed to be here."
Watch Jaxson interact with his six-month-old cousin Aria, and for a moment, you forget about all his challenges. But there are more hurdles to come. After a nine-and-a-half hour surgery last year to fix just some of Jaxson's health defects, the little boy has another major surgery scheduled in August.
Jaxson's dad, Alex, is working in North Dakota to support his family and make sure all of Jaxson's medical needs are taken care of, even if that means he doesn't get to see his son as often as he'd like.
"You always hear about these things and know that they happen but never think that its going to happen to someone in your family, let alone your nephew. And the day we found out... it was just.... just nobody really talked we were all just quiet and we all just cried," said Hannah Hertz, Jaxson's aunt and Cynthia's sister-in-law. "I didn't honestly know how my brother would deal with that, my brother's never been good with things like that, he's never dealt... but he was by Cynthia's side all the time. He was such a great support system. The day he was born, he just was the proudest father I've ever seen and he completely made a 360 of his life, he's completely changed for that little boy and he's done everything and anything he can for him."
Cynthia said these kind of health defects occur in unborn babies more often than you think, but doctors so adamantly suggest terminating the pregnancy that very few are carried to term.
Even though Jaxson was very recently diagnosed with Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, or SUDC, which means Jaxson could go to sleep at any time and not wake up, Cynthia, Alex and their friends and family refuse to think negatively and take each challenge day by day, aiming to prove that though Jaxson's quality of life might not be like ours, he's living life in his own way.
"I don't know why he's here, I don't know what reason he was given to me, but he has changed so many people's hearts," Cynthia said. "I mean for a little boy who wasn't supposed to be here, and he's so stinking cute, I mean, I just want the world to know him and I want him to be loved and I want him to feel that love. I mean, even if he grows up and he's wheelchair bound, he's uncommunicative and he can't talk, he's still going to know what love is. He'll never have to deal with bills or working a job or girlfriends or anything like that, he's just going to know love and family and I think that's enough for him."
Both Cynthia and Alex want to be by Jaxson's side during surgery this August, which means both will have to take off work for several weeks. To help with living costs and other expenses, fundraisers and tip nights will be held throughout May and June to support the family. Those events include:
-Tips Night at North Pizza Hut in Ottumwa on Friday, May 31 from 5-8 p.m.
-Tips Night at the Ottumwa Pizza Ranch Wednesday, June 5 from 5-8 p.m.
-Tips Night at Pizza Hut Wing Street in Ottumwa Tuesday, June 25 from 5-8 p.m.
-Benefit dinner and Silent Auction Saturday, July 6 from 5-8 p.m. at the Albia Baptist Church.
Cynthia also has a Facebook page set up to support Jaxson and give updates on his health, which you can find by clicking here. If you can't make any of the events, others are also raising money for the family on a website you can find by clicking here.