Father credits St. Jude with saving 2-year-old daughter - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Father credits St. Jude with saving 2-year-old daughter

Lily and her father Jon (Source: WMC Action News 5) Lily and her father Jon (Source: WMC Action News 5)
The Parnell family (Source: WMC Action News 5) The Parnell family (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Little moments help tell the life-saving stories that happen inside the doors at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital every day, like watching Lily Parnell and her brother Oakley giggle and give each other kisses during an interview.

Two-year-old Lily, of Grove Hill, Alabama, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in the fall of 2015.   

Lily's father Jon Parnell said he and his wife Roxanne knew something was wrong with their daughter when a month of throwing up got progressively worse. This included multiple trips to the ER and back, and an original diagnosis of viral gastroenteritis.

CLICK HERE to see pictures of Lily and her family.

"They had to do an immediate surgery and place a shunt in her head," Parnell said. "The shunt was to relieve pressure from her brain, because the fluid buildup was so great."

Parnell said doctors found a baseball-sized tumor had wrapped around Lily's spine, which turned out to be a fast-growing form of brain cancer.

The Parnells felt things were dragging on too long and precious time was being wasted to start treatment in Alabama, so Roxanne picked up the phone and called St. Jude.

"The lady here said, 'I don't know why they haven't sent you to us way before now,'" Parnell recalled during the phone conversation. "'You should have been on treatments. Lily needs to be here now."'

St. Jude picked the family up and flew them to Memphis right away. Jon, Roxanne, Lily and Oakley are now staying
in the Target House, for patients and their families who need care at St. Jude for longer than 90 days. Parnell said The Target House's apartment-style living has been a God send, and helped normalize the family's visit with two small children.

"Not only is Target House providing a place to stay, but we don't pay any water bill; they pay all of that," Parnell said. "And, St. Jude gives us a Kroger card to help with groceries every week."

Removing the aspect of financial stress helps the Parnells focus their time and energy on helping Lily get better.

"It's wonderful because throughout the years and throughout my life, I've always made it a point to donate to St. Jude every year," Parnell said. "And never once did I think it was going to go to my daughter."

Parnell said St. Jude has kept them so busy, this interview was the first time he has sat down to really talk about Lily since her diagnosis.

"I can say that without St. Jude, I probably wouldn't have my little girl," Parnell said.

Lily's surgery paralyzed her for the first few months, which Jon says was frustrating at first for a little girl so sharp.

"Lily, before this all happened, was walking, talking, running," Parnell said. "She knew all of her ABCs by a year-and-a-half-old; she started walking at seven months old."

Because of St. Jude and the generosity of countless strangers, she is slowly getting back to doing all of those things again, so she can just be Lily. 

"St. Jude made this happen," Parnell said. "My daughter is sitting up in my arms rather than lying down in a bed, not being able to move. And she's able to do this," Parnell said, as he helps his daughter take a few small steps while holding on to her hands. "They brought this progress on in a matter of a few months. This, this is a miracle."

Lily is currently undergoing aggressive treatment at St. Jude, and doctors have projected treatment will continue through September.
Reserve your ticket for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway TODAY here.

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