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918 Poplar Ave.  •  Memphis, TN 38104

Family Stories

Housing is the last thing parents should have to worry about when their child is sick or injured. Thanks to generous people like you, FedExFamilyHouse is a free, comfortable place for families who travel long distances to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Learn more about the families you’ve helped.

The Ayeni Family

The Ayeni twins were born in Enugu State, Nigeria, on Nov. 16, 2015. The girls were diagnosed as conjoined in utero and shared a large intestine, two bladders and a pelvis. In early 2016, the Nigerian-based Linking Hands Foundation sought Le Bonheur Children's Hospital's help on behalf of the Ayenis. The Ayenis stayed at FedExFamilyHouse for the duration of the twins' treatment, free of charge.

The surgery was Le Bonheur’s second separation of conjoined twins in the past five years. A team of specialists from the areas of anesthesia, child life, critical care, pediatric surgery, orthopedics, nursing, plastic surgery, radiology, rehabilitation therapy, social work, spiritual care and urology met weekly for four months prior to the surgery to plan the separation. More than 20 physicians and surgeons were involved in separation – and another 100 nurses and other clinicians involved in their care.

“I know they will walk, I know they will do everything,” said Mary Ayeni, the twins’ mother. “God used the hospital to save the lives of Miracle and Testimony.”

Charlie Hudson is a little girl with a big heart.

Charlie Hudson is a little girl with a big heart. She is always watching out for others and making sure they have whatever they need. But when Charlie had heart surgery, she needed her support system – her parents, sister and grandparents – nearby to help her recover quickly. Thanks to you, her family could stay at FedExFamilyHouse and focus all their energy on caring for Charlie. 

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"I talk about old souls all the time and we kind of feel that way about her," says Kim Martin, also known as Nuna – that's Charlie's nickname for her maternal grandmother.


"She comes in a room, and she just she goes from person to person to make sure that everybody's okay. Do we have a drink? Are we hungry? She's just making sure everyone has whatever they need."


That big heart of Charlie's started out with some big problems. Diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at 20 weeks in utero, Charlie had her first surgery at just four days old. Four more surgeries took her family, which lives in Greensboro, N.C., to nearby Winston-Salem and then to Philadelphia, Penn., to repair Charlie's VSD, or ventricular septal defect. But her pediatric cardiologist in North Carolina discovered more damage, this time to the tricuspid valve (TSV) and conduit. He referred her to Le Bonheur and pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Christopher Knott-Craig.


That meant yet another trip out of town for the Hudson family and another surgery for Charlie. But this time, there was the FedExFamilyHouse, a place for Charlie's parents Nicole and Jonathan, little sister Riley and grandparents Kim and Joseph Martin, Jr. (also known as Nuna and Poppy) to call home throughout Charlie's surgery and hospitalization.


"It experience was phenomenal," says Kim. "Just the peace of mind from being right across from the hospital, and not having to worry about where we're going to wash our clothes, where we are eating, having to drive a distance to see Charlie. It was like a five star hotel and when we walked in, we were greeted just like family."


"The rooms were just so comfortable, that was really lovely to have," adds Nicole. "It just seemed like home when we were there." Nicole appreciated the little touches – a private refrigerator and pantry the family, the playground and children's games at the house, and especially the opportunity for Kim and Jonathan to get out of the hospital and focus some attention on Charlie's little sister as well as recharge their batteries.


"It allowed for my parents to stay with Charlie… It made my heart feel better, knowing she knew that we were still there for her, and for us to recuperate and get out of a hospital setting."


FedExFamilyHouse also became home for Charlie following her discharge, allowing the family to stay in a healthy environment near the hospital for her post-op check-up. Both Kim and Nicole believe being at FedEx Family House helped Charlie regain a sense of normalcy in the days after her operation, especially with her sister Riley.


"They are very close, and Riley just being able to be there for Charlie and support her and her normalcy was of a great benefit for her to heal faster," says Kim. "That was definitely such a blessing to have all that."

Landon Keaton - Finding comfort, friendship in Memphis

Toisha Keaton didn’t know one family facing the same rare genetic disease that her son Landon has. She felt so isolated. After 17 years of feeling isolated and alone, Toisha finally met two other families who understand the journey while staying at FedExFamilyHouse. 

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For parents of an ill child, there is nothing more comforting than meeting other parents who understand exactly what you're going through. Parents who are also facing the challenges unique to every childhood illness. People who understand your fears and with whom you can trade information and advice.


For 17 years, Toisha Keaton wouldn’t know the comfort of talking to other parents about tuberous sclerosis (TS), a rare genetic disease that causes benign tumors to grow in many parts of the body. Her son, Landon Thornton, was diagnosed at four months with TS. It took doctors in their hometown of Trenton, SC days to make the diagnosis of TS, as the neurologist and other physicians had never treated a patient with the complex disorder.


It wasn't until Toshia brought Landon to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in 2016 for additional testing that she met the families of two others TS patients at the FedExFamilyHouse.


"In 17 years, we have never, never known another child, another person, with this disease," said Toisha, her voice cracking with emotion. "In coming to Le Bonheur, we met the first people with this disease. I literally cried."


TS manifests itself differently in every patient. For Landon, TS has included seizures that affected his early development, and multiple tumors that needed surgery and treatment, among other symptoms. The seizures were the first sign that something was wrong, Toisha says. As an infant, Landon would suddenly double over, losing all muscular control in the top half of his body. While the disease interfered with his developmental growth, he is now a top scholar in his class, an easygoing teen whose one request upon visiting Memphis was to cross the Mighty Mississippi so he could say he had been to Arkansas.


During that visit in the fall of 2016, Landon and Toisha stayed at FedExFamilyHouse for a  week while he underwent testing on tumors found in his kidneys.


"This was our first time going to Memphis," says Toisha. "I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. Having somewhere that was so comfortable, that you walked in and felt like home, was pure comfort." Staying at FedExFamilyHouse, says Toisha, "was like being treated like royalty. Anything you needed, you just asked, and they would get it for you.


More than a home away from home, meeting other TS families and sharing their common experiences while living at FedExFamilyHouse helped to combat the feeling of isolation Toisha experienced since Landon's diagnosis 17 years ago.


"Just knowing that Landon was not by himself … we felt so isolated, for 17 years – people just didn’t understand what was going on with my child," says Toisha. "Meeting other people was just heaven-sent."

The Hughes Family

Cooper Overcame Rocky First Year (video)

Cooper Thomas Hughes will enroll in kindergarten this fall and his parents Russell and Terri will celebrate this major milestone that seemed so far away when their son was born. Cooper was born two months early – Jan. 18. He weighed 4 pounds and had many medical complications - bowel problems, only one kidney and clubfeet.

In less than 24 hours after birth, Cooper was airlifted by Pedi-Flite from Tupelo, Miss. to Le Bonheur Children’s MedicalCenter in Memphis for more specialized care. At three days, surgeon Trey Eubanks, MD, repaired Cooper’s intestines so his GI system could function adequately. Cooper spent his first 10 months at Le Bonheur.

 

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“Because of his short bowel syndrome, and the fact that his small intestines were only one-third the length they would normally be, Cooper’s body had to learn how to absorb the nutrients from his food in order for him to grow,” Terri said. Cooper received all nutrition through an IV. One of the complications from his treatment was liver damage.

 

After many attempts to improve Cooper’s liver function, gastroenterologist Gene Whittington, MD, sought the advice of other pediatric specialists around the country. This new course of treatment and last hope using an immunosuppressant medicine and a steroid helped Cooper’s liver repair itself and regenerate. His skin color and liver enzymes also returned to normal. Since then, Cooper has had no other liver-related issues. Cooper continued to struggle with his feeding. He could not absorb formula by drinking from a bottle as a healthy child could. He was fed through an NG tube and IV for many months.

 

On October 28, 2004, when Cooper left LeBonheur for the first time since his birth, he went home with IV fluids and a central line. His parents were trained by Le Bonheur nurses to change his central line dressing in a sterile fashion and taught how to change his IV fluids. In time, Cooper gradually became able to tolerate taking his formula from a bottle, and his body began to better absorb the nutrients. When he was 13 months old, Cooper was able to be taken off the IV fluids. Since then, he has only had to receive IV fluids on a few occasions due to becoming dehydrated from a stomach virus.

 

For five months, Cooper wore full-length casts on his legs to help improve his clubfeet. After the casts were removed, he wore special shoes and a brace between the feet to help turn them in the proper position. In October 2006, orthopedic surgeon James Beaty, MD, corrected Cooper’s right foot. Cooper then wore a full-length cast on his right leg for 12 weeks.  Today, Cooper is running and jumping around like other children his age.

 

Today, other than an allergy to milk and treenuts, Cooper is eating whatever he wants and tolerates it fairly well. On some days, because of his intestinal issues, he does not want to eat very much, and his body does not absorb the food as it should.  But for the most part, Cooper is a normal five year-old boy when it comes to picky eating.

 

Cooper is still under the follow-up care of many Le Bonheur physicians who continue to monitor his on-going medical issues.  He sees physicians from many specialties – surgery, gastroenterology, orthopedics, neurosurgery, urology and hematology. His primary pediatrician, Dr. Ed Ivancic of Tupelo, also monitors his progress. 

 

Cooper’s parents, Russell and Terri, are very thankful that Le Bonheur is in close proximity to Tupelo, and that it has the specialists on staff to help treat Cooper’s conditions and assist him today to be a thriving and vibrant 7-year old little boy.  And by the way, Cooper is a huge Ole Miss Fan.