Journey Elementary Hosting Back-to-School Donation Opportunity for 1st Grader with Brain Tumor
It's the phone call that not one parent ever wants to get: "Ma'am, can you come into our office? We need to talk about the health of your son."
For Shantae Tennant, the moment she got that call, time stood still. She knew something was wrong. Truth be told, she was the one that persisted when other doctors told her that her son was fine. Doctors may know a lot of things, but moms know their boys. And Tennant knew something was wrong.
"Mikey's whole life, he's always been very small and he was sick after every meal," Tennant told K2 Radio News. "We had seen almost every pediatrician in Casper, and a few in California, because I knew something was wrong. Everyone just brushed it off and said he was 'a slow grower.'"
But she wasn't buying it. She knew something was happening with her boy, she knew he was hurting, and she knew that something needed to be done, quickly.
"I finally gave one last person a chance before taking him to Colorado, and they agreed something was off, as my other two kiddos were beginning to tower over him," she said. "They ran blood work and bone growth scans and initially decided that he was 'growth restricted.'"
Tennant still wasn't convinced that was the issue, but at least it was something. On February 25, 2022, Tennant took her boy to an Endocrinologist, who sent him for an MRI to study the size of his pituitary gland.
"That was at 8:00am," Tennant said. "At 5:00pm that night, they called and asked if I could meet a whole team at the Community Health Center of Central Wyoming to discuss his results."
That was the phone call. That was the turning point. That was the moment when their lives changed forever.
Tennant said that she immediately called her mom to go to the appointment with her, as her fiance was out of town.
"When myself, my parents, and all three of my kiddos got there, we were put into a room with for people," she remembered. "They asked if the kids could stay in one room, while the adults stayed in another. And that's when they told me that he had a golf ball-sized brain tumor, mid-brain."
Tennant said her first reaction was to burst into tears, and that's exactly what she did.
"Then I wiped my tears away and went to Mikey to explain what was going on, and what it meant for him," she said. "I went straight to my job at the time an took leave, so I could get him immediately seen."
Tennant said that she took Mikey to Colorado for more MRI blood work and a surgery consult. They also talked about chemotherapy/radiation treatment, if it was needed. Thankfully, it wasn't.
The surgery was scheduled for April 8, less than two months after his diagnosis.
"It was expected to be an 8-hour surgery and only a 5-day hospital stay," Tennant stated. "It became an almost 11-hour surgery and when we finally got to see him, he was in a coma and he was on life-support. They had no idea why he wouldn't wake up until the next day, when they discovered he had two strokes."
Mikey remained in a coma for some time.
"From there, we just waited on him," Tennant shared. "I advocated for a feeding tube on the 19th, and it was placed on the 20th. He woke up after that, but he was blind and he couldn't walk or talk."
It's the type of news that could break somebody, but that's not the type of person Shantae Tennant is. It's not the type of person Mikey is. Mikey is a fighter. His favorite superhero is Batman and Mikey knows that, no matter what, Batman always fought. So, he'll fight too.
"All things considered, he's doing well," Tennant said. "He's talking like he never stopped. He got his feeding tube out two weeks ago. He has vision, but he can't open his eyes, so he's still considered blind. He's walking, but not often, since it's not safe and he's still unstable. He still needs medical equipment and he has appointments almost daily."
Adding to the unimaginable stress of having a child in such an unfathomable circumstance, there's also the issue that plagues most Americans.
How were they going to pay for everything?
"Currently, our bill is in the millions," she wrote in a Spot Fund account that she created to raise money for this life-changing event. "I'm honestly just trying to get help with the medical devices we will need once home. His step dad is working as much as possible to keep life back home going for when we can return, and I have moved to Colorado without Mikey's sisters to be here for him full-time. This means I am not working. I'm not the type to ask for money, but our social worker and financial counseling at the hospital have encouraged me to reach out for help with what I cannot change."
Tennant said that Jason's Friends has helped them tremendously, paying for food and gas and even handling some of the bills back home. But this is going to be an incredibly long journey, and they are running uphill.
And that's where Journey Elementary School comes in.
"For the past 7 months, one of our smallest Journey Heroes has been in a fight for his life," Journey wrote in a social media post. "Mikey was a Kindergartner at Journey during the 21-22 school year. In February, he was diagnosed with a bran tumor."
The post detailed Mikey's fight, as well as the fight his parents are waging against their bills.
"Mikey and his family have been through so many challenges this past year," the post continued. "They have all faced them head-on and are continuing to overcome. Although he has made amazing growth, his battle is not over. He will have ongoing needs as he continues to heal and recover. He will have continued medical needs for many years to come. As a school family, we would like to help support him!"
So that's just what they're doing, but they need the community's help.
On August 31, Journey Elementary is holding their 'Back to School Night,' and they are offering parents the chance to donate to Mikey and his family.
"His classmates and younger sisters have created their very own original art pieces," the post stated. "We would like to invite you to participate in a silent auction, where all proceeds will go straight to his family."
The open house/silent auction is from 4pm-6pm at Journey Elementary School, located at 2401 Hickory Street in Casper.
The post noted that "If you are not a part of Journey Elementary, or will not be able to attend, you can still help support Mikey's cause by visiting this donation page."
It's a big ask, and the school knows that. But it also knows the secret about this community; that when one of our own is struggling, when one of our community members needs help, especially if it's a kiddo, help will be there. Casper has proven, time and time again, that it really is a village when it comes to taking care of its kiddos.
"Having [Journey] has been truly life changing," Tennant said. "I wasn't sure how it would go, but they have gone above and beyond in every way; from Easter gifts and cards in the hospital, to the support throughout everything else. I honestly feel like they truly love not just Mikey, but all of their students."
Journey Elementary School is an embodiment of the community of Casper as a whole. They're letting their kiddo (and his parents) know that he is not in this alone. Superheroes have sidekicks. Batman has Robin. And Mikey and his family have not just his school, but Casper itself on his team, as his sidekick.
Whether via the silent auction at the Back-to-School Night for Journey parents, or through any other means, this is the community's chance to prove that they are all 'Team Mikey.'