In the summer of 2006 my husband Jim and I were living our lives as normal couples do, with the hopes and dreams of starting a family. On August 15th our dreams had come true. On that day our Lord blessed us with a beautiful baby boy we named Austin Hatcher Osborn. We called him “Hatch”.
Born healthy, so we thought, we watched him grow and his personality bloom, even at such a young age. Hatch was every Mom’s dream baby. He was cuddly, loving and a sleeper. He was perfectly content simply sitting and hanging out with Mom and Dad.
When he was seven weeks old, Jim and I had a charity event that we had hosted for four years, an annual event to raise money for children with pediatric cancer. Hatch, our wonderful baby, was with us that weekend, a weekend we have come to cherish.
The Monday after returning home, I started noticing that Hatch wasn’t acting normal. Not acting himself consisted of being fussy and discontent, which, to some, is very normal for a seven-week-old baby. I took him to the pediatrician on Thursday and we were told that he might have a tummy virus.He seemed to be perfectly fine, just a little sick. So, I took him home and just babied him, giving him lots of fluids and lots of love.
Sunday, October 8, we noticed that his left eye was deviated. Not knowing what it could be, I started calling everyone I know. I was told that babies sometimes do that while they are learning how to focus. Again, it seemed to be okay. Then by 3 p.m. it had not moved much, so I panicked. I noticed that he wasn’t moving his left arm very much either. A horrible feeling swelled in my stomach, and I rushed to call the pediatrician while Jim sat with Hatch.
Within a few minutes of explaining what his symptoms were, the pediatrician said, “Get Hatch to the emergency room. Go. Now.” In a state of panic and fear, we packed and hurried to the hospital. I remember crying the entire drive, thinking, “He is going blind.” That was the worst thing my mind would let me fathom.
Arriving at the hospital – where Hatch had been born only eight weeks earlier – Hatch was rushed in and doctors began immediately doing tests. He was given a spinal tap, a CT scan and a full regimen of antibiotics. But they could not figure out what was wrong. They had never seen these symptoms at such a young age. Sunday evening the results came back and nothing was negative, but nothing was positive either. Both tests showed a “not clear” reading. We waited through the night for the next day’s news. It was one of the longest nights of our lives. I remember feeling absolutely helpless. I knew there was something wrong but I didn’t know exactly what – and neither did medical professionals.
That next morning, Hatch had an MRI scheduled for 10 a.m. We carried him down and watched doctors put him under anesthesia. He was so innocent and precious. Waiting was even harder than the night before. We waited and waited and finally they wheeled him out, our little tiny 12-pound boy on the adult-size bed. I just wanted to melt.
Being a physician at the same hospital, Jim knew where to find the MRI scans, so he left Hatch and I to find results. I went back to the recovery room with Hatch. Within 15 minutes, Jim came walking into the recovery room with a look of terror on his face. I kept asking, “What is it Jim? What is it?” He kept moving frantically asking the nurses if we could leave the recovery room.
I persisted to keep asking what was wrong, and finally he dropped to his knees and cried, “Hatch has brain tumors.”
“What? What? No, no, no!,” I cried. We just sat there balling our eyes out and holding and hugging Hatch. At that moment we left the recovery room to go back to our room. We were soon told that Hatch was going to be airlifted to the Children’s Hospital Cancer Center in Atlanta. Hatch’s condition grew progressively worse.
I remember having the feeling that we would get through this. We have worked with children that have survived cancer for the last four years. I know Hatch is going to make it.
That evening Hatch was in Atlanta at Children’s. He was immediately taken to the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). That night, Jim and I didn’t sleep a wink. At 6 a.m., we took him to get another MRI of his full body, not just his brain. Again, we had to watch him be put under anesthesia, and just wait. Things kept getting worse.
Within a couple of hours, Hatch was back in the room, and we waited on the doctor to show the results. We discovered that the tumors were not only in his brain, but had spread down his spine. They had completely taken over his central nervous system. The only thing doctors could do was to get a biopsy to test if this cancer was benign or malignant. Within an hour, they put Hatch back under anesthesia and took him back for the third time in 24 hours. More waiting took place, but this time was even worse than the two times before. With hopes that this test would come back negative, we held each other crying & praying.
The thought of this as a bad dream swept over me. I wanted to crawl out of my skin and scream...
That night, the reality of Hatch perhaps not surviving hit me hard. I have never felt so empty.
I never imagined this would be something that could happen to our son.
The very next morning the oncologist came to talk with us. He took us into this tiny room where he started telling us about options. He explained that from the biopsy it was confirmed that Hatch’s tumors were malignant. Not only malignant, the tumors were one the most aggressive and rare tumors children can get.
He proceeded to tell us that the survival rate was less than 10% and that 10% are normally over the age of three. Hatch was only eight weeks old. He explained how his type of cancer did not have many treatment options, that he was too young to withstand most treatments. But, I felt that we had to do something. There has to be something to fix this. We cannot just let him go. After hours of trying to understand that there was nothing we could do, we made a decision to take him home. An overwhelming feeling that we would not watch Hatch grow up consumed me.
We brought him home on October 11, and, for seven days, we watched him lose all function in his tiny body. On the morning of the 19th, Hatch took his last breath in Jim’s arms as I sat next to them on the floor. He was only nine weeks old, but he was the strongest little boy imaginable. The pain of this is nearly unspeakable, still. But that pain has created a deep desire to do all we can to help families journey from the infliction of this terrible disease...on all members of the family.
We know we can make a difference in the battle against this dreaded disease.
Please Join Us.
Jim and Amy Jo Osborn
Founders, Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer