While the Cleveland Cavaliers were setting the stage for their first NBA Championship, 12-year-old Cavs fanatic, JT Gayhart, was embarking on his own journey.
All of his life, JT had been experiencing chronic dizziness that led to vomiting. His family had admitted him to various hospitals for treatment where he received countless GI exams that provided little help.
In March 2016, JT’s mother and father, tired of witnessing their son be subjected to increasingly painful migraines, sought the help of a pediatric neurologist in Cleveland. After visiting with the neurologist, the Gayharts finally received answers to the cause of JT’s debilitating migraines: a significant Chiari 1 Malformation of the cerebellum. Not only did JT have the malformation, he also had swelling along his spine.
As the Gayharts were getting answers, hope and joy collided as the Cavs clinched their first NBA Championship. Wanting to prevent any potential neurological side effects from the spinal cord swelling, doctors scheduled JT for surgery. The date of the operation? June 22, the same day as the Cavs championship parade. With JT’s surgery and recovery looming, the Gayharts scrambled to find a hotel room that was both cheap and close to the hospital. It was at this point that Yvonne and her husband were referred to the Ronald McDonald House by Yvonne’s aunt.
While the hospital cared for JT, the Ronald McDonald House cared for his family so that they could provide the foundation their son needed to recover. "At a time when we could not work and finances were so tight, the onsite amenities of laundry, family dinners, an area for our other children to stay, and transportation to and from the hospital were amazing and comforting," Yvonne says.
Being a self-proclaimed “HUGE” Cavs fan, JT distracted himself in the preoperative room by watching the championship parade with family and hospital staff. After undergoing a successful surgery, JT and his family returned home after less than a week at the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. Grateful for the comfort that the House provided, Yvonne and her family now speak about their experience any chance they get.
In December 2016, the Ronald McDonald House partnered with the Cavaliers to provide tickets for the Christmas Day rematch between the Cavs and Warriors. Knowing how big a Cavs fan JT is, his grandmother grabbed a pair of tickets for JT and his dad. Little did she know that her purchase would give JT the chance to high-five the players as they entered the court. With his jaw on the floor, JT slapped hands with the reigning NBA Champions, bringing full circle the family’s journey in Cleveland.
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