A Bladen County family is facing $12 million or more in medical bills.
Last September, Kelsey Cox and Jake Higgs found out their son, J.T., 9 months old at the time, had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. J.T., under the care of Duke Medicine, was put on a five-round course of chemotherapy. After the first round was completed in January, doctors declared him in remission, but continued with the remaining rounds for preventative measures.
On Feb. 28, the couple heard the dreaded words — the leukemia was back.
“Leukemia is notorious for hiding in little places in the body,” said Higgs. “And the difference is, when it comes back, it comes back more aggressive.”
Higgs said a bone marrow transplant is a certainty and, though the couple has “been too busy to look at or think about medical bills,” they do know the issue is looming.
In a recent “JT’s Journey” Facebook post, Cox said, “I’d … like to put into perspective just how much it cost(s) to keep a child with cancer essentially alive. This new drug I spoke of that will be used in the clinical trial alone cost $178,000. Recently in one of the childhood cancer support groups I’m in, there was a question asked about how much total treatment costs … the average was between $2 and $5 million. That’s right, MILLION. And usually that was BEFORE a bone marrow transplant … those numbers were upwards of $12 million.”
Cox has only spent about 12 days since September in Bladen County, the remainder of the time being spent at Duke. Higgs maintains his job at a Bladenboro pawn shop in order to pay bills. While J.T. is on Medicaid, the couple incurs substantial travelling, dining, and lodging costs.
“We really don’t think about it very much, because it doesn’t matter how much it costs to help my son,” said Higgs.
To help defray costs, several efforts are underway:
— A GoFundMe page called “JT’s Journey” has been set up. To date, the crowdfunding site has raised over $3,300.
— A donation account has been established at First South Bank. People desiring to contribute can visit any First South Bank and let an employee know they want to donate to the account for J.T. Higgs. Contributions can also be mailed to First South Bank, P.O. Box 99, Elizabethtown, N.C. 28337.
— T-shirts with “Fight Like a Kid!” on the front and “Team JT” on the back are available for purchase. The gray shirts are $20 for adults and $15 for youth and are available at First South Bank in Elizabethtown.
— A benefit day is planned for Saturday, April 1, at the Historical Building in Bladenboro. The event will feature kids’ activities like bounce houses, face painting, games, and a dunking booth, as well as food vendors like Sunset Slush. Wristbands will be $5.
From noon to 1:30 p.m. will be registration for a bike ride to take place at 1:30. The participation cost is $20, which will also cover a BBQ plate.
Be The Match, an organization that matches bone marrow donors with patients needing transplants, will be on site from 3 to 7 p.m.
A Smith & Wesson handgun will be raffled off for $5 tickets, and a 50/50 raffle will take place as well.
Live entertainment will be on site from 3 to 7, and a bake sale will be held from 4 to 7.
The day’s festivities will culminate with a “Sending up prayers” balloon release at 7 p.m., after which time guests can purchase BBQ plates for $7.
“We really do appreciate everything everybody’s doing,” said Higgs. “We might not be able to express it all the time, because we’re so busy, but it’s been mindboggling that people would do this. We really do appreciate it.”
More information can be found out about J.T. by following “JT’s Journey” on Facebook.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.