By: Abby Walton | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 14, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Since 1962, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee has taken care of some of the sickest children in the country.
As one of the premier pediatric cancer research centers in the world, St. Jude provides treatment to patients and takes care of their families for free.
They do this through federal grants, insurance and investments, but mostly through the donations of regular people.
It's money that one Big Bend family said helped save their son’s life.
Like most 16-year-olds, Braden Coburn is just trying to ace his pre-calculus homework and figure out his future after high school. These are things all teenagers face, but Braden's mom, Laurie said, they're challenges he's happy to take on.
"He sees life a little differently than most people his age," Laurie said.
That's because at just eight years old, Braden was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor.
“I've never been so scared in all my life as I was that day. I just looked at my husband and we both broke down into tears,” Laurie said.
Braden has a non-cancerous tumor called 'craniopharyngioma.' His tumor is close to his optic nerve and the pituitary gland. If left untreated, both could face damage and cause very serious health problems.
“At that moment, we knew we were going to do whatever it took to take care of him,” Laurie said.
After hours surfing the web and making calls, the Coburn's answer was clear, Braden needed to go to St. Jude.
“They have been an unbelievable group of people that have treated Braden like he's the only patient that they have,” Laurie said.
At St. Jude, Braden underwent six weeks of radiation to shrink the grape-sized tumor.
“We didn't have to worry about how we were going to pay for this, what are we going to do, where are we going to stay, what's going to happen? St. Jude walked us through that whole process,” Laurie said.
“It's amazing what they do there because it doesn't feel like a hospital. It feels like a home," Braden said.
Between airfare, gas, lodging, food, treatments and more, the Coburns said in their eight years with St. Jude, they've never had to pay one single bill.
“They want the family to take care of the child. They don't want the family to worry about the disease,” Laurie said.
So that's exactly what the Coburns did.
“My family always supported me through this. They've always uplifted me when I was down. They've always been my rock,” Braden said.
Today, Braden's tumor is small. It'll always be with him, but through St. Jude, they're keeping an eye on it and making sure there are no signs of growth.
"I feel great. Honestly, St. Jude has done so much for me. I'm so happy now," Braden said.
It’s a relief for his mom, dad and sister.
“Our whole family, we are advocating for St. Jude for the rest of our lives because they saved his life,” Laurie said.
It’s letting Braden go back to being a normal kid, whose biggest worry is getting his homework in on time.
Braden will always have this tumor, so he takes medicine to keep his hormones in check. He’ll go back to St. Jude in January for his annual check-up. In fact, because St. Jude is a research hospital, they'll continue to follow Braden all his life to document the tumor from child to adulthood. Again, all his checkups are free.
It costs about a billion dollars a year to run St. Jude while also keeping it free for patients and their families.
One way you can help is through annual events like Saturday’s St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer. It kicks off at 7 a.m. on Saturday, September 15 at the SouthWood Town Center in Tallahassee.