(Part one of a two-part article. The second half of this article will be included in the Friday, October 17, 2008, edition of AG News. Following publication of both parts of the story, the Internet versions, found in AG News, will contain links to connect both parts of the story.)
Although the descriptions "secular TV" and "worth watching" are typically at polar opposites for many Christians, on the evening of Sunday, October 26, 2008, ABC is scheduled to air a show that churches and their congregations may just want to TiVo, DVR or tape - if not gather and view the program together.
But first, meet Job. No, not the biblical figure - though they do seem to share some commonalities - but a normal, happy young boy who in 2002 was diagnosed with a milder form of ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). However, the news went from bad to worse, as a few weeks later, the family learned 4-year-old Job's leukemia was in fact a highly deadly form of ALL, with their preschooler having just a 10 percent chance of survival without a bone marrow transplant. However, unlike the biblical Job, this Job's story isn't a free fall, but more of a roller-coaster ride on the way to a miraculous "death."
What does this young boy's life struggles have to do with secular television? Job, his parents Rob and Tina McCully, and his sister Nicole, who are all long-time members of Bigelow (Arkansas) Assembly of God (located about 46 miles northwest of Little Rock), were recently selected for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show is scheduled to be broadcast on October 26.
For those unfamiliar with the show, ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition receives applications from families in desperate circumstances from across the nation to be on the show and receive a home makeover. After going through an extensive selection and interview process, the list is narrowed to five families and the makeover team arrives at the one of those families' front doors in a motor coach. After meeting with the chosen family, touring the current home and discussing the families' needs and desires, the team gets to work with volunteers from the community on demolishing the old home and building a new one, while the family is sent on a week-long vacation.
However, exciting as this gift of a "miracle home" seems to be, "Job's miracle" and the McCully family journey to this point in time may actually be even more inspiring.
|The McCully family (l to r): Glenda Osborne (Tina's mother), Nicole, Job, Rob and Tina McCully.|
In 2002 when Job was diagnosed with the extremely deadly form of ALL, the entire McCully family began a physical, emotional and financial roller-coaster ride that few could fully understand. Having a child be diagnosed with any form of leukemia is traumatic enough, yet looking back, the McCullys could easily say, "If only it were ‘just' leukemia."
When it was discovered that Job's sister Nicole was not a match - meaning she couldn't be a bone marrow donor for Job's bone marrow transplant - Job was sent to San Antonio, Texas, as the McCullys learned that in Arkansas, they don't do bone marrow transplants from unrelated individuals. Tina quit her job while Rob tried to work, taking leave to travel back and forth to San Antonio to be with Job and his family.
"It was an adjustment. We went from a double income to just one," Tina explains. "[In San Antonio] Job had total body radiation and chemo therapy leading up to the transplant." The process would take three months.
The first of many miracles took place when the bone marrow transplant went well - and took. But as is the case with many medical "cures," the cure can kill you.
"After the transplant, Job started getting other illnesses because his immune system was so depressed from the radiation and chemo therapy," Tina says. "He contracted RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) pneumonia, which is about 85 percent fatal for transplant patients."
However, "God had mercy," Tina says, and Job recovered "beautifully" from this second serious threat on his young life.
Then, a few months later, Job got the flu. Although not as life-threatening as the RSV pneumonia, the illnesses resulted in permanent damage to his weakened lungs. At five years old, Job was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans. This deadly disease basically slowly crystallizes the lungs and makes a person more susceptible to pneumonia, which only worsens the condition and makes a person even more susceptible to pneumonia - an ongoing, deadly cycle.
"From that point on, Job had frequent pneumonias," Tina says. "We were going back and forth from the hospital, but to see him, he looked like any other kid - only he would get out of breath if he ran, like an asthmatic child. We were able to manage the bronchiolitis obliterans for about four years."
Tina says that their oncologist knew what Job was headed for, as by age 8 he was treading on thin ice - functioning on just 40 to 50 percent of his lungs. "He referred us to a lung transplant team, and sent us to Houston in August of 2006 for an evaluation," Tina says, "but they said he was still too healthy for a transplant and we were to come back in six months."
Job returned to Houston for a follow-up visit in mid-February of 2007. Again, they were told Job was too healthy to be placed on a list for a transplant. Just two weeks after that, Job went into respiratory failure and nearly died.
"The doctors took him off an antifungal preventative medication in November 2006," Tina says. "He got a fungal pneumonia after his check-up in February, but the doctors treated it with antibiotics instead of antifungals - within three days, he was on a ventilator and basically at death's door. He was placed in a medically-induced coma and now the doctors said Job was too sick for a transplant!"
The family did not give up. After talking with several doctors, Job was transferred to the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. He would spend two months there, on a ventilator the entire time. The goal was for Job to regain enough strength so he could be considered for a lung transplant.
In the meantime, Tina, who had started to work again in 2004, took a leave of absence when Job had respiratory failure and was sent to Houston in February 2007. Rob, who had just started a new job, was asked to resign. Now, the family went from a double income to no income - and they wouldn't have an income for more than a year.
The roller-coaster ride continued when Job's doctor in Houston was diagnosed with leukemia! With Job's grip on life being precarious at best, the family couldn't wait for the hospital to re-staff and Job was sent to the St. Louis Children's Hospital. It was now May 30, 2007.
"He had a difficult wait for the transplant," Tina says, quietly. In August, Nicole had to return to Arkansas to go to school . . . Job just loves his sister so much - he begged her to stay with him. He explained to her, "‘Nicole, I can't breathe without you.' "
And maybe Job was right.
"In September, he became so sick...," Tina recalls, "he had seizures and went comatose, the doctor told us he probably wouldn't survive the weekend and asked us to sign a DRN (do not resuscitate) form, because if Job did go into cardiac arrest, he would be dropped from the transplant list. We refused. I felt like David, even though God told him Bathsheba's child would die, he still fasted and prayed for his son."
Job surprised doctors and miraculously survived the weekend and more, but on October 24, Job went into cardiac arrest - his heart stopping for 10 agonizing minutes - before he was revived.
A miracle - or at least an intervention by the Holy Spirit - that might get lost here is the McCullys' refusal to sign the DNR form a month earlier when told their son would not survive the weekend. "If I had signed the DNR form," Tina says, "the doctors would not have done CPR . . . .
"My mother, Glenda Osborne, was in the room reading the Bible to Job when he went into cardiac arrest," Tina adds. "She was reading in Psalms where ‘God will rescue you from death' at the time . . . while the doctors were doing CPR, she told me she sat in the corner of the room and had a peace in her heart knowing Job would be okay."
And Job would be. After the traumatic event, despite the doctor's warning, Job remained on the transplant list and he recovered enough so that on December 11, 2007, he received his lung transplant. But that night, Job would go into cardiac arrest, only to once again be revived by the medical team.
Since that time, Job has been on the road to recovery. The McCullys knew that it would be three months before Job could be released after the transplant, but they also didn't know where they would now live. In the process of determining Job's reason for contracting fungal pneumonia, the McCullys discovered that their 40-plus-year-old home had excessive amounts of mold growing in it, caused by water flowing down a slope and settling under the house. The mold was most likely the reason for Job's fungal pneumonia - he could never live there again.
The road home . . .
Although the McCullys were confident that God would provide now that they no longer had a home they could return to, they had no idea what that answer would be.
First, it's important to understand that Bigelow is a small, but close community of less than 400. Bigelow Assembly is a bit larger than one might expect for such a small town, as Pastor Alan Shelton and his wife Brenda report the church now runs about 100 people or so each week. Rob McCully is a board member at the church.
However, during their 10-month stay in St. Louis, the McCullys plugged into a local Assemblies of God church, West County AG. Along with raising $18,000 to assist with the McCullys' bills, Tina says the real difference was how the church took them in. "I believe it was God's will that we ended up in St. Louis," she says. "They [West County] took us in, visited us multiple times every week and really loved on us."
And the church family back in Bigelow didn't forget the McCullys either. In fact, the two churches each thought that the McCullys should apply to be on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. So they did.
That's where things started to get interesting.
According to Shelton, one of the show's producers told him ABC receives anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 applications a week for the show! How would the McCullys ever stand out in a mountain of mail like that?
Not to be detoured, Florence Rappold, the Bigelow church secretary, helped coordinate an effort to try to get as many people as possible to send letters and postcards from February 11 to February 21 to ABC to encourage them to consider the McCullys' application. Friends, family, the local community, churches, people who read Tina's blog - even the town mayor sent letters on behalf of the McCullys. Tina would later learn that ABC received so many post cards and letters from around the country, it stopped up the ABC mailroom!
However, March arrived. No one had heard from ABC, and it was time for the McCullys to move home. As was His custom during this entire experience, God again provided for the family. Some individuals who owned rental property in Bigelow offered the family a rental home to stay in, no charge, through July (which was extended through mid-August).
In April, ABC contacted the McCullys. They explained about the massive amounts of mail they received concerning their situation, and wanted to know more. Tina says a crew came out and did casting interviews in April, and over the next few months would call periodically with questions. The family had not been selected, they were only being considered.
"We didn't know anything, really, until mid-July, when we were given a date: August 14," Tina says. "We were one of five families who were the finalists - we wouldn't know until August 14 if we had been selected, and we would know if the Extreme Makeover bus pulled up to our front door. However, like the other families, we were told to be packed and ready in case we had been chosen."
And on August 14, after what seemed a lifetime, the McCullys' bus arrived.
Click here to read part two of Job's story.