KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Life has been consistently unlucky for 7-year-old Jameson Wall, an autistic Tennessee boy who was born drug-dependent and later diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder.
A series of at-home videos document years of struggles, doctor visits and hospital stays.
In one video, Jameson is shaking and crying, telling his mother, “I don’t know how to control my body!”
In other videos, Jameson is hooked up to monitors, shaking and twitching or struggling to control his arm so that he can feed himself.
Jameson’s mother, Laura Wall, said he has Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, (PANS), and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated w/ Streptococcal Infections, (PANDAS).
Stanford Medicine identifies PANS as a dramatic onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms that can include obsessions and eating disorders thought to be “triggered by infections, metabolic disturbances, and other inflammatory reactions.”
PANDAS creates a sudden onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms like OCD or tics following a streptococcal infection, according to Stanford Medicine. Symptoms can also include uncontrollable emotions, irritability, anxiety and loss of motor skills.
“He can wake up one morning and it looks like he has Parkinson’s and he can’t say words he used to be able to speak clearly. He would engage in self harming behaviors and draw blood,” said Laura Wall.
Jameson’s parents, Corey and Laura Wall, started to feel like nothing could help their son.
“We’ve been to countless therapy appointments. You name it, we’ve tried it and it seems like there’s been nothing that has been what’s going to help,” said Laura. “Nothing?” asked WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara. “Well, recently he’s had some luck,” revealed Laura.
An introduction to a dog named Sushi turned Jameson’s bad luck into good fortune.
“Sushi can bring him out of a stressful time very quick. Other kids are wanting to be around him more since Sushi came into his life,” said Corey.
“He is capable of forming a relationship with people now, through the dog. We know he has it in his heart. He has the capacity,” remarked Laura.
The pit bull named Sushi became Jameson’s stroke of luck. However, it turns out Sushi needed a little luck of his own. The stray was dumped at Focus on Cumberland County Animal Safety (FOCCAS), an animal rescue in Crossville, Tennessee.
“He’s a very calm dog, but most importantly he wants to please. That’s what he lives for,” said FOCCAS Founding President Jan Hendrixson.
Sushi’s online adoption listing described his potential to be a service dog.
That’s what Laura and Corey Wall were drawn to after a trip to Vanderbilt’s Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital where Jameson responded well to a facility dog named Squid.
But Jameson said he was drawn to something else; “I adopted Sushi because he didn’t have a home.”
Sushi went months without a permanent home. Jameson went even longer.
“After 717 days and 15 court dates, we finalized the adoption in August of 2018,” said Laura. “They both know what it’s like to be homeless. And to not be wanted. But also, they both know what it’s like to have found a family.”
Corey and Laura said Jameson’s family didn’t have the time or resources to help him, so they stepped in when he was just a toddler. She said their shared past makes the connection stronger.
“They share the same story. Both of them didn’t have a safe place to land. Both of them spent a long time waiting for that safe place to land and both of them held on and persevered,” said Laura.
On it’s website, Vanderbilt reports that growing evidence shows animals can have profound effects on patients. “Research shows that human-canine interactions with a gentle, friendly, trained animal have benefits including stabilizing blood pressure, diminishing pain, reducing anxiety and even encouraging communication.”
In July, the Wall family sent Sushi to an animal training program in Georgia, hoping to further enhance his ability to help Jameson. Sushi graduated in August, then accompanied Jameson to an appointment at Vanderbilt. His mom said it’s the first time he hasn’t cried at the hospital.
“We live for this. It’s a rare occurrence to have this kind of adoption. We get chills just talking about it. I can’t imagine a better life for a dog than to have your own kid that you get to take care of. It looks like it’s the perfect fit for Sushi, and we just couldn’t be any happier,” said Hendrixson at FOCCAS.
“What do you think this story is about?” asked Hara. “Is it about not giving up when you luck seems to have run out?” Laura replied, “That, and giving the unlikely a chance.”
Because who knows? It might just lead to a stroke of luck.
“The kid goes through so many struggles so many pokes and sticks. He finally gets a win. He gets to have his best friend with him everyday,” said Laura.
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