When little Jospeh Underwood was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) in 2013 and fighting for his life, his grief stricken family did the only thing they could think of - pray.
His family sent an email to friends and family asking them to pray and within hours they were receiving hundreds of emails and texts from around the world. Thousands of people in over 20 countries were praying for Joseph and wanted to know what was happening. So his family launched a blog www.prayforjoseph.org.
Now nearly three years on, the local tot has beaten all the odds and is coming to the end of his treatment - and his blog continues to have hundreds of followers.
Joseph’s Granny, Marie McFarland from Ballymoney explained: “For two weeks Joseph had been fighting off a viral and bacterial infection. On 21st October 2013, after several doctor visits, we were sent to the A&E of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. His little brother Ezra was by now four days old.
“Two days later the results of a bone marrow sample confirmed that Joseph had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). Perhaps even more worryingly, cultures of the organisms in Joseph’s blood showed that Pseudomonas was among them. This bacteria is immune to most antibiotic treatments. To have any hope of defeating it you must have a functional immune system, the very thing which Joseph did not have. The doctors told us the three year treatment for ALL would start with a 30 day blast designed to kill all the leukaemia and allow the normal bone marrow to be regenerated.
“In Joseph’s case, we were told that he very likely did not have the 5 to 6 weeks it would take to see even some of his immune system restored so he could fight off the Pseudomonas bacteria. There was a very high likelihood that this infection would kill him before he could see any immune system function restored.
“The doctors told us we should start treatment immediately for there to be any hope of Joseph surviving the infection. They did not feel there was much chance, just that proceeding with the treatment was the only thing to do.”
Deeply grieved and stunned, Marie and her family called on the community to pray and the blog was created my Joseph’s parents Kate and Ed to keep everyone updated.
Marie continued: “What happened next remains a mystery to the medical staff. Over the next few days Joseph’s infection indicators fell lower and lower until the infection completely disappeared.
“Since this initial miracle of his life being preserved, many people have continued to pray for Joseph throughout his treatment for leukaemia. He is now in the final stage of treatment, due to finish at the end of this year. Since Joseph’s treatment began, he has been unable to go out in public as the chemotherapy suppresses his immune system. We are so thankful for how God has continued to protect him from infection and from the most serious side effects of the treatment.
“Along with all that prayer has been much help from the Body of Christ, His church. In the first weeks of Joseph’s illness, members of the church we attend brought us meals every day, washed our clothes, ironed shirts, cleaned our home, made the beds, helped care for our other children when Kate could go to the hospital, sent encouraging notes and texts, even donated blood to the hospital when they realized how critical this was to Joseph and other children like him. Since then many have continued to check on us and encourage us.”
* Since the beginning Joseph’s blog has had more than 61,000 visits by almost 17,000 people and a staggering 300 people throughout the world have subscribed for email updates. So why not go online and find out more about little Joseph?