John J. defies cerebral palsy — and the odds

Life wasn’t supposed to amount to much for John Josiah Martinez.

Since his third day living, he has been on medication to control his seizures.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and scoliosis, they said he would never walk, he would never talk. He’d have to be fed through a tube.

“They pretty much told me he was going to be a vegetable, not to expect anything from him,” said Monica Martinez, mother of John Josiah, who is known simply as John J. “So, that’s what I prepared for.”

But this mother also prepared for something more — that her son might just defy the odds.

A move from North Carolina to Texas when John J. was just 6 months old meant more than just a new zip code, but a change in the course of his life.

As a new patient at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, despair was replaced with hope.

“Going to the other hospital, I was always scared. What was I going to hear? What were they going to tell me?” Martinez said. “Here? Everything’s always been explained to me. Everything’s always been given hope. Hey, if we can’t do this, let’s try this. Let’s work through this. And it feels like family.

“Everybody here knows his name.”

John J., the boy who would be attached to tubes, wasn’t.

John J., the boy who wouldn’t walk, walked.

John J., the boy who couldn’t talk, talked.

And while his utterances are such only those closest to him can understand, it only takes one to comprehend to make a wish come true.

“Walk across the stage.”

And just like that, John J. set a new goal.

Now 18, John J., who is always smiling, pushing hard, a fan of baseball and golf, fought for something else. After two hip surgeries, he had to relearn at age 15 one of the skills he has been fighting for all his life.

Rigged in harnesses, a brace and steadied with a walking cane, John J. worked with Driscoll physical therapists to get back on his feet.

“He’s really pushing toward working toward that goal,” his mother said.

As the Martinez family knows well, so much in life begins with a single step and a whole lot of hope.

A fateful journey

Moving from North Carolina, where John J. was born, to Texas opened a new world of care for the Martinez baby boy.

After he was diagnosed, John J.’s parents, Monica and John, knew they’d need support to care for their son, so the couple moved to Corpus Christi to be closer to family and to Driscoll Children’s Hospital.

Right away, the family noticed “the feel is completely different,” Monica Martinez said.

In its hospitals, clinics and specialty centers throughout South Texas, Driscoll Children’s Hospital treats more than 150,000 pediatric patients each year.

For families whose children require expert medical care, they can be confident that their children receive it at Driscoll’s state-of-the-art facilities and thanks to its highly skilled team.

John J. began seeing specialists at Driscoll, including Pediatric Neurologist Carol Deline, MD. Deline and the neurology team at Driscoll care for children with complex conditions, such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

John J. also had regular visits to help develop his gross motor skills, mobility, speech and more, with Driscoll’s occupational, speech and physical therapists, including Mandy Alaniz, who eventually helped him learn to ride an adaptive bike.

By age 4, John J. was walking — a milestone his family was once told he’d never reach.

“He was the most excited I’d ever seen him,” his mother explained. “Getting him to slow down became the challenge. He wanted to follow everyone everywhere and he’d waddle as fast as he could.”

John J. even joined the Miracle League baseball team and was invited to the All-Star Game to play with kids from across the country.

But a discrepancy in the length of John J.’s legs caused him pain and instability as he grew taller and, at 15, he had two surgeries to help with the instability and to prevent arthritis. John J. was also diagnosed with scoliosis.

And recently, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Eric Wait, MD, performed a procedure to transfer the tendons in John J.’s right hand, allowing him to extend his hand and more easily pick up objects — including a baseball.

“Driscoll has given us the opportunity to have John J. walk again,” Martinez said. “Driscoll has provided us with other options, as far as braces for his hands go — things that probably would have come out of pocket for me. And they’ve just helped us along the way — emotionally, physically — making us feel like family and easing any and all fears that I’ve ever had.”

An inspiration to all

This year, John J. was named CMN Hospital Champion for his triumphant spirit of overcoming diagnoses that don’t define him, but drive him.

Ongoing rehabilitation at Driscoll helped him build strength, regain functionality and learn to walk again — and reach his goal.

“John Josiah Martinez!”

The orator exclaimed as John J., donning cap and gown, took the stage at his high school graduation ceremony this spring.

Applause filled the auditorium as he walked across the stage, with a smile as big as the dream he’d just accomplished.

John J., the boy who was told he would never, just did.

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