Ole Miss, Mississippi State fans join forces to support Mississippi’s only pediatric cancer center
By Jim Albritton
Tears filled Olevia Williams’ eyes as Jacob Partlow, her 12-year old son, walked onto Hollingsworth Field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
Former Children’s Hospital patients Traeshaun Hiley, left, and Emma Welch enjoy pregame festivities with Emma’s father, Casey, before the MSU–Middle Tennessee State game.
“Just to see this happen after everything he’s been through, to finally be happy and excited. We can finally see the silver lining,” Williams said.
Partlow, from Jackson, was one of 12 Mississippi children who represented the state’s only children’s hospital at three Ole Miss and three Mississippi State football games this season. They participated in coin tosses, appeared on Jumbotrons, were honored as kid captains and met players, referees, cheerleaders and a mascot or two.
And along with a team of volunteers, they promoted the sale of $5 “Our Kids Got Game” bracelets. The school-specific bracelets in blue and red or maroon and white included the hospital and team’s logos, along with the “Got Game” slogan.
“This is a really great way to show everyone what Batson Children’s Hospital is all about and how important it is to raise money and help out any way we can,” said Jasmine Murray, Miss Mississippi State University.
Partlow was at the Ole Miss-Vanderbilt football game along with Lily
Elliott, another 12-year-old from Oxford. Their goal that night was to represent thousands of kids, just like them, treated at Mississippi’s only pediatric cancer center at Batson Children’s Hospital.
A week later, a hundred miles south in Starkville, two other children, both born with heart defects, were on the 50-yard line at Wade Davis Stadium for the coin toss at the Mississippi State-Arkansas game.
“This is special. I mean to get to see him go out there on the field. It’s as much a treat for us as it is for him,” said Kristi Pena of Richland.
In the past, her 4-year old son, Christopher, and 11-year old, Georgia Grace Thurlow of Starkville, both had to leave the state to receive care.
Today, that’s no longer the case. Batson’s new congenital heart program provides heart transplant surgery and offers treatment for the most complex heart defects. The team, headed by Dr. Jorge Salazar, has performed more than 1,000 surgeries in just two years.
And Thurlow, who was sent to Pennsylvania for surgery to correct a defect that altered the flow of blood to her heart when she was a baby, was one of those patients last year. Her pulmonary valve was replaced at Batson.
“Their family is a great example of the way things should be,” said Salazar, chief of congenital heart surgery. “That you can get the best care at home from a great team of experienced cardiologists and nurses who can care for a child who would otherwise have a lethal heart defect.
“There are other great programs in the country, but I’m glad to tell you we have a great program here in Mississippi.”
And that’s a message that Dr. Gail Megason, director of the Children’s Cancer Center at Batson, echoes.
“I’d love for people to know that we are here to take care of all of Mississippi’s children with cancer,” she said. “We have wonderful services, a great hospital and lots of support and we have everything we need to care for patients and their families. We follow the same protocols that all other pediatric cancer centers do across the nation.
“Childhood cancer is treated the same in state or out, but one of the most important things is to be close to your family for support.”
Murray is no stranger to Batson. The American Idol finalist has visited the hospital, performed for patients and actively supports the Children’s Miracle Network.
The bracelets and T-shirts bearing the slogan are popular at both universities and at UMMC. They are available at several locations in Starkville, Oxford and Jackson and will be sold at upcoming Ole Miss and MSU baseball games.
Several news stories and promotional videos about the bracelet campaign can be viewed on the Batson YouTube channel at youtube.com/batsonhospital.