Kathy Young describes her son, Teon (TJ), as tougher than most anyone she knows. All his life, TJ has battled sickle cell anemia, asthma and cardiac issues, causing him to push through physical pain every day.
"TJ's condition doesn't allow red blood cells to move through his body easily, and he has half the red blood cells as we do," said Kathy. "He sees a team of doctors monthly, and those who care for him have to coordinate his care very carefully."
TJ's team of doctors includes a hematologist, cardiologist, neurologist, ophthalmologist and pulmonologist, and through all the visits, he never complains. Instead, TJ doesn't want his dad, mom or his sisters to worry about him. He feels sad when he has to be in the hospital and be apart from his family, friends and beloved dogs.
"I adopted TJ when he was 3-years-old, and I knew he was a sweetheart from the moment I met him," said Kathy. "He has a tremendously empathetic spirit."
Regardless of any pain he's in, TJ is an avid sports fan and an accomplished baseball, basketball and football player, having positions such as a left-handed pitcher, point guard and running back. Nicknamed "Tiny T" by his teammates, TJ plays as much as he can, and his coaches always support and encourage him to do so and rest as he needs to. TJ is optimistic for a cure, so he can continue playing the sports he loves.
"At times, I have seen him get out of bed from pain and go to a game to play because his team needs him," said Kathy. "He is little, but mighty."
TJ dreams of becoming a doctor, so that he can help others. And even now, TJ is teaching his peers lessons in staying positive and compassion, just by being an example.
"TJ lives life to the fullest," said Kathy. "It warms my heart to see the impact he's making on others, and I'm so proud of him."