Elijah Bryant is a force to be reckoned with. In just 7 years of life, he’s bravely survived PICU, chemotherapy (twice), a bone marrow operation, radiation, 14 general anesthetics, 4 central lines, countless CT scans and whole months of his young life a full-time occupant of the hospital bed that he needed to call home.
According to Eli’s mom, the equally indomitable Michelle Bowman, Eli’s journey with cancer began when a stubborn cold was finally diagnosed as a rare type of leukemia that few hospitals had the world class specialists and facilities to treat. After researching all options around the country, Eli’s family decided to drive Eli the four hours from his Alabama home to be treated by the best – The Studer Family Children’s Hospital. Together, Eli and his mom had already survived PICU, and endured a cancer protocol that even adults would be challenged to survive. Yet from the moment they knew what they were up against, Eli, his parents and his grandparents made it their mission to make sure he healed through a combination of treatment, love and an abundance of positive focus toward healing. Michelle and her partner even shaved their own heads to in solidarity with their path, moving their base of operations to the Ronald McDonald house and hospital room Eli called his home. The formula worked, and Eli went into a remission that lasted 5 years to the day of his ‘All Clear’ doctor visit, when test results revealed the cancer not only came back, but stubbornly aggressive.
Eli was born with an innate joy that is impossible to explain or ignore. As he endured more chemotherapy he became an ‘Honorary Nurse’, wearing scrubs and making rounds. His hopeful mom was with him of course, this time early into a pregnancy with a girl. Unimaginably for a family that had already survived so much, Michelle went into premature labor, giving birth to baby Skylyn, a precious girl who lived just 9 short days. Michelle says, “I was at the main hospital, my baby was at NICU, and Eli was just floors above.” The doctors and staff, from everyone from the President of The Studer Family Children’s Hospital to the nutritionists jumped into action, making sure everyone in the family, especially Eli, were cared for emotionally, physically and mentally. “They were like a family to us. I can’t say enough about how much they were there for us and how much they’ve helped us get through this.”
Today, Eli is in line for a Bone Marrow transplant later this summer. In the meantime, he’s put on a set of nursing scrubs, wraps a stethoscope they gave him around his neck and wears a hospital badge – given to him by no one else than the President of the Hospital – that signifies his adoption into the hospital family. “People should know that in a heartbeat your child’s health can be turned into a nightmare. We’re always just a split second away from a journey like mine. This hospital gave us more than we can ever describe. Eli got remarkable treatment and care, and truly deep love from every single person he saw here. There’s literally no place better for our kids.”