Ezra’s Race Cars
Early this year Travis and Ramona King began to notice that their one-year-old son, Ezra, wasn’t using his right hand. If he wanted one of his race cars, he would always pick it up with his left hand and move it to his right to play. While this seemed odd, their pediatrician’s office assured them that some children have a very dominant hand. But Ramona wasn’t convinced.
“I looked back at video from his first birthday party to make sure I wasn’t crazy,” she remembered. “He was digging into his cake with both hands, so something had changed since then.”
Weeks later, Ezra began dragging his right leg and then on a fateful Saturday in April, he fell down the stairs. When his parents got to him, he was holding his right wrist awkwardly, so they decided to get an X-ray at the local hospital in Braselton. The doctor there noticed a red dot under Ezra’s eye and wanted to do a CT scan. The CT scan revealed a mass the size of two golf balls in Ezra’s brain. The King family was immediately sent to the hospital where an MRI determined the mass was cancer. Just days later, Ezra was on the operating table for a biopsy.
The biopsy indicated that Ezra’s tumor was one of the more common types of brain tumors: Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma (JPA). The Kings went home with a lot of unknowns because the pathology of his tumor was very unusual.
“They sent the tumor for genetic testing because it was so odd,” Ramona said. “The doctors did tell us right away that due to the size and location, Ezra would need the tumor removed immediately. So we went back to the hospital a week later for what they said would be an eight-hour operation. It was so hard to hand him over. Once they carried him away, I just collapsed.”
The surgeon was able to remove 85% of the tumor. Its proximity to the brain stem and carotid artery made it impossible to remove the entire thing. As he was waking from surgery, Ezra held out his hand, and one of the nurses thought he wanted his mommy.
“He didn’t want me,” Ramona laughed. “I knew he just wanted one of his race cars, and once I handed it to him, he pulled it to his chest and went back to sleep.”
While the invasion of the tumor caused problems, the surgery to remove it has also created several issues. Ezra now is dealing with Bell’s palsy, right-side weakness, speech issues, vision loss, and nerve damage that causes him pain and tingling along his right side.
“He’s the same precious boy he was before the surgery,” Ramona explained. “He struggles with mobility and sometimes gets frustrated about his speech. He will have to do a lot of therapy to get back to where he was developmentally. But overall, he’s hanging in there.”
Even though JPA is one of the more treatable brain tumors, there is a lot up in the air because of the unusual mutations Ezra’s genetic testing revealed. For now, he is out of treatment as his medical staff monitors the tumor’s growth without intervention. In two months they will return for a repeat MRI that will help to determine a treatment path. Travis and Ramona are also exploring clinical trials that have shown promise. During this difficult time, they have seen an incredible network of support grow around them.
“Our church, family, and friends have been so helpful to us,” Ramona said. “We are a family of faith and we believe that this will all come together as it is supposed to.”
Travis and Ramona know that this could be a long haul but they rest assured that their newfound community stands behind them. They can also be assured that CURE will be there beside them. CURE’s mission is to assist families like the Kings from diagnosis for as long as we are needed – be that six months, a year, five years, or more.