NORTH LIBERTY — Chandler Johnson was only 14 when diagnosed with a tumor on his brain stem and spinal cord last February.
His mom, Angela Bell, had brought Johnson into work with her one night for a regular adjustment at Family and Sport Chiropractic in North Liberty where she is the office manager and director of marketing and philanthropy.
Mohamed Karim, chiropractic doctor at the office, began doing muscle, nerve and balance tests on Johnson. It became clear that something was wrong with Johnson’s reflexes.
“(Karim was) the one that said, ‘you need to get him to the doctor right now,’” Bell recalled.
A few days later, a neurosurgeon at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics diagnosed Johnson with Ganglioglioma, a slow-growing tumor on the central nervous system.
“It was a worse-case scenario deal where when they got to him, they didn’t know how he had made it that far and was doing as well as he was,” Bell said. “He had a host of issues and wasn’t getting any fluid from his brain to his spine and had two arteries pinched off. A few months later, he would have had a stroke and died.”
But the tumor had interwoven throughout Johnson’s spinal cord and brain stem.
“It’s like the roots of a plant, they couldn’t go in there and take it all out,” Bell said.
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So doctors did what they could take pressure off Johnson’s brain, taking out parts of his vertebrae to make the swelling go down. The then 14-year-old and was in the hospital over a month and also went through rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Occupational and physical therapy helped him relearn to walk and feed himself.
“It will be there forever, and he’ll have to get MRIs and X-rays for the rest of whatever life he has,” Bell said. “This is a day-to-day thing and there’s not enough people on the planet to know how it’s going to react. He’s doing a nice job of recovering.”
Bell said it’s still a big adjustment for Johnson, now 15, who cannot participate in football or shot-putting anymore.
However, the Make-A-Wish Foundation — which grants a wish in the form of a trip or experience to children facing life-threatening medical conditions — contacted Johnson while in the hospital. Because he was granted a wish, Johnson and his family were able to go on a trip to Hawaii.
“He had lost everything that was important in his life at that time, but he did have that to look forward to,” Bell said. “It was a very big deal. We want to be able to do that for somebody else.”
Karim and employees at Family and Sport Chiropractic share that sentiment. A few months ago, Karim told Bell he wanted the office to be able to devote to fundraising efforts because of the impact the Make-A-Wish Foundation had on Bell’s family.
“I chose Make-A-Wish, and Dr. Karim ... dove into that with both feet,” Bell said.
In December, Family and Sport Chiropractic began a massage and adjustment special for which half of payments were donated to their $10,000 goal for fundraising, about the cost of one wish. This summer, Bell is planning to have fundraising events with the office, such as a grill-out, movie night, silent auction and deals for spinal scans and chair massages.
“Our ultimate goal is to always get more people in the door,” she said. “The more patients we have, the more money we are able to raise.”
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Johnson said she hopes to raise funds for multiple other experiences through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and she said it wouldn’t be possible without Karim’s help.
To get involved, email Bell at email@example.com.
l Comments: (319) 368-8516; firstname.lastname@example.org