A rare set of cancers has hit a somewhat rare little boy. He doesn't look sick. He doesn't act sick, and he'll definitely put a smile on your face if you're fortunate enough to meet him, but this 2-year-old is in a fight for his life.
Meet 2-year-old Tarius Summers, Jr., but don't call him that. His real name is "Tater Bug."
"I started calling him that when I was pregnant and it just stuck," smiles Tater Bug's mom, Latonya Greer.
The vivacious toddler has spent a large part of his young life at Batson Children's Hospital. He was born with an atypical form of Spina Bifida and surgery repaired it. But now, young Tarius faces something much more life threatening, simply because it's so rare.
"This is maybe my third case here in three decades," admits Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Rati Iyer.
Dr. Iyer says Tater Bug has two different types of leukemia. ALL, which has a standard treatment, and AML, which requires a different and more aggressive chemotherapy.
"One is common. One is not so common. One is responsive. One, not so responsive. It's very difficult to choose which one to treat first," reveals Dr. Iyer.
"I broke down. I couldn't take it. I broke down. It got to me. All the things he went through," recalls Tater's dad, Tarius Summers.
"Even during his sickness, he always has a good personality," adds Greer. "Always smiling. He loves people and they love him."
Tater Bug's mom and dad say doctors have been very honest with them about their son's rare diagnosis.
"The staff, the doctors and the nurses have been keeping us up to date and not withholding the things you'd think would scare you off from not knowing what's going on, but they've been very good with us," says Greer.
"I see myself in him so much. Me. Loving everybody. That comes from me. Me growing all over again, that's all," says Summers.
And the patience of this Attala County family is just phoenominal. Latonya had been told since last May that Tater Bug had some type of rash. She didn't find out differently until she packed him up and brought him to Batson Children's Hospital in October. It turns out the "rash" wasn't a rash at all.
"His skin turned extremely black. They told me that was his blood clotting cause his platelets had been so low and he started the bleeding from the inside and it was coming to his skin," Greer remembers.
But immediately upon diagnosis of both ALL and AML, big decisions had to be made based on the limited science available.
"The treatment for Acute Lymphocitic Leukemia is different from Actue Myelogenic Leukemia. But when you have both you don't know which one to treat," reports Dr. Iyer.
Dr. Iyer ultimately decided to treat ALL first, followed by the more aggressive treatment for AML. But even that won't be enough.
"The best thing we do for these kids is to do a bone marrow transplant, if they have a match, a good match donor," Dr. Iyer explains.
After weeks of anxiety about finding a bone marrow match, Tater Bug's family found out that there were three donor matches.
"Very ecstatic he has a match," smiles Greer.
And now this family's hope for Tater Bug's life rests with God, and a total stranger.
"There's a higher calling than ourselves. Just to give other people the belief and strength that whatever you're going through, you just have faith and belief that God's going to help you," says Greer.
Tater Bug's bone marrow transplant is scheduled for the third week of February. WLBT will bring an update to the toddler's health a that time.
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