Savannah patient recalls how St. Jude saved his life

St. Jude has been saving lives since 1962. Patients have come from all over the world, including Savannah.

“Even looking at the pictures, it’s kind of like I’m seeing them sort of third person,” said Tony Migchelbrink, who shared photos of his time as a patient with WSAV.

His memory might be a bit fuzzy, but the pictures are proof of what Migchelbrink endured at just three years old.

“It was a pretty bad diagnosis,” he said.

It was acute lymphoblastic leukemia and in 1979, the odds were not in his favor.

“My parents told me that when they first got the news, they asked what could they do, and the doctor told them ‘Take him home and love him.’ It was a pretty serious thing,” he said.

But a Savannah oncologist had heard of a unique hospital doing ground-breaking work with childhood cancer.

“St. Jude was the only hope that they had,” he said.

Two weeks later, St. Jude flew the family to Memphis and began treatment — a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. That was the most advanced care available to kids anywhere at that time. The successful treatment took years to complete but came at no cost to his family.

Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — the only thing they have to worry about is helping their child live.

The mission of founder Danny Thomas lives on more than 50 years after he founded the hospital. Thomas was a frequent visitor when Migchelbrink was a patient and he fostered the feeling of community.

“You do hear laughter, you see smiles. It can certainly be kind of crushing, but you feel the hope while you’re there. It is a hopeful place,” he said.

Hopeful because the treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push childhood cancer survival rates to 80 percent.

“I literally owe my life to their care,” he said.

Migchelbrink said you can help the hospital’s mission to make sure no child dies from cancer. Proceeds from the dream home tickets will help. Click here to buy one.

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