He maneuvers the halls of Mercy Hospital and smiles along his way. Sometimes he leads, sometimes he follows. To folks who cross his path, he’s just another kid learning to walk. But to many, he’s known as “the miracle baby.”
T.J. Lee, now 4, was hospitalized with serious injuries from shaken baby syndrome at just two weeks old. The injuries were so severe his doctors didn’t think he would survive. However, four weeks later T.J. was released from the hospital and placed in foster care.
Many miles away, Becky and David Lee and Becky’s daughter, Akasha Boles, were unaware of how their lives would soon be transformed. It was through Becky’s sister that she would learn of the young boy with a long road to recovery.
Becky says, “From the moment I heard about T.J., I felt he was meant to be part of our family.”
“I wanted so badly to adopt him - for him to belong to us. I had to remind myself to pray unselfishly and ask the Lord to place him in the best home.”
Shortly after T.J. turned one, he began living with the Lee family and the adoption process was finalized on September 13, 2012.
He belonged to a family.
T.J. greets every day with persistence and determination. He has been in therapy since he was six weeks old. Because of the injuries he sustained as a baby, T.J. is unable to walk without a special pediatric gait trainer due to his legs being weak and difficulty with balance. His left arm has limited range of motion and his speech is delayed for a child of his age. His schedule is rigorous with preschool and physical, occupational and speech therapy a minimum of two times a week.
But his progress is steady. He is now able to say his alphabet, feed himself, drink from a cup on his own, pulling up to stand and maneuver the complexities of a classroom without assistance using the gait trainer.
“Disabled doesn’t mean unable,” Becky explains. “He’s smart as a whip; his body just prevents him from doing things in a conventional way.”
“We’ve always allowed T.J. to do what he is able to on his own. We give him freedom to improvise and figure out a way that he can do it versus cater to his limitations.”
Meredith Sewell, T.J.’s Mercy physical therapist shares, “The will of this child and his family are unmatched. He has surpassed every expectation of each doctor, therapist, and nurse that has crossed his path.”
“Everyone has worked so hard to encourage T.J. to continue to prove he is capable of doing what they thought would be impossible.”
Sewell adds, “T. J. and his family have not seen his limitations but, instead, have focused on his abilities with consistent work, motivation and love. He is truly an inspiration in the halls here at Mercy and a joy to work with.”
“Caring for T.J. is hard work, just as caring for any child,” Becky adds. “It’s a commitment for the entire family. Often people comment, ‘Oh, you’re such a good person to take on such a responsibility.’ It’s not about a good deed; it’s about the love we have for T.J., our son.”
“It’s the little things that bring us joy,” Becky adds. “He enjoys the same things as his pre-school classmates – action figures, cars and exploring. He’s especially affectionate and loves to give kisses too.”