Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 27, 2013

Community together for ailing boy

Tim Preston
CNHI News Service

RACELAND — The past year had been pretty good for young Jack Cantrell, who had several months playing and making friends at school before health problems forced him back into a hospital for treatment of cystic fibrosis compounded by complications from the flu.

As the 5-year-old and his parents face the situation, along with mounting medical bills and a difficult prognosis, the Raceland community has embraced the family and banded together to help in their time of need.

“He runs and plays just like any little boy. He had a great year being around other kids and with his own network of friends,” said Leighan Moore, Raceland-Worthington Schools preschool coordinator, who remembered the young boy’s mother’s concerns about enrolling him in school despite his illness.

Moore said she has been pleased to be a part of the small town’s reaction to the Cantrell family’s challenges.

“It’s amazing how much a small town can do,” she said, recalling the crowd of familiar faces who recently gathered for a meal at Texas Roadhouse in Ashland, generating $1,000 for the family.

Moore said efforts on behalf of the family will continue April 6 and 7 during the “Go to Bat for Jack” softball tournament planned at the Worthington Youth Baseball Complex.

Connie Hamilton, a friend of the Cantrell family, said Cantrell is a charming boy with outstanding parents, Joe and Libby Cantrell, and a loving sister, Jannah, who is a student at Campbell Elementary.

“Oh, he loves playing ball. I think golf is his favorite,” Hamilton said Tuesday afternoon, passing along news that Cantrell seemed to be responding well after doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital had taken him off of a ventilator earlier that day.

Jack’s father, Joe Cantrell, said their son continued to do well after being removed from the breathing machine.

“He got off the ventilator today and he’s on a bipap,” he said, explaining Jack’s health declined after the flu virus aggravated his cystic fibrosis, resulting in a bacterial infection and swelling of the lungs and heart.

“He had a lot of fluid in the membrane around his heart. They drained off about half a pop can there and they drained 20 ounces from around his left lung,” the boy’s father said. The heart and lung problems were followed by complications with Jack’s kidneys, liver and spleen. “He’s had a tough go of it ... nothing has went well for the boy.”

Cantrell said his son has been unconscious during the latest hospitalization.

“This is his 23rd day of sleep. We’re hoping he’ll wake up in the next day or two,” he said, explaining doctors plan to taper off on the boy’s sedation.

Cantrell agreed with others who described his son as “a typical boy” who enjoyed being at school and with friends. He said he first took his son to a golf course when he was three years old, and jokingly recalled the young boy’s reaction when he thought the game was over after the first swing. “He didn’t understand you play from hole to hole,” he said with a chuckle. “He just loves to hit golf balls.”

Cantrell said the community’s reaction to Jack’s circumstances has been humbling, adding he is amazed at the number of people who have never met his son or any member of the family who now seek daily updates about his condition. While Jack’s condition seems to be improving, his father said doctors are uncertain about the young boy’s future.

“That’s a tricky question,” he said, explaining cystic fibrosis has many mutations which can impact quality of life and longevity. His son is classified as having a “Class One” mutation, the most severe, and 50 percent of those with similar problems do not live beyond 15 years of age, he said.

Cantrell said he tremendously appreciates the community’s support, as well as that of his employers at H.T. Hackney Co., where he works as a food service director. “They’ve been great to us anytime I’ve needed to be off when he was sick,” he said.

An account on behalf of Jack Cantrell has been established at Community Trust Bank, and considerable funding has also been raised for him through the giveforward.com website. For information about the “Go to Bat for Jack” softball tournament, call (606) 615-0884.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.