Community rallies around young cancer patient


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on June 6, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 6 at 8:15 PM

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas -- A Central Texas community is rallying around a young cancer patient and her family.

Nine-year-old Amanda Watson's cancer came on suddenly just a few months ago. Her Williamson County residents responded almost as quickly, assisting the Watsons with everything from meals to medical expenses.

Williamson County emergency medical personnel deal with life and death situations almost every day. Still, paramedic Thomas Watson says he wasn't quite prepared for what happened to his nine-year-old daughter Amanda.

"Normal, healthy girl with no medical problems at all," said Watson.

That all changed four months ago.

"At the end of February we started started to notice a change in her walk," said Watson. "In a week and a half it had progressed into her arm."

Doctors at Dell Children's Medical Center determined Amanda had a walnut-sized tumor on her brain stem.

"It was a shock," said Watson.

Before her diagnosis, Watson described his daughter as, "our little daredevil," he said.

But surgery and six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy have taken their toll.

"She's definitely not the firecracker she's been," said July Splain, a WILCO paramedic and Watson's ambulance partner. "She's almost been beat down. She said all she wanted was to play again and she couldn't wait to go. She knows that when she goes home to see Jesus, that's all she'll do is play. That kind of tore us up a little bit."

"There are those moments of tears amongst all of us, but she doesn't stay there very long," said Watson.

While her treatment to date has reduced the size of her tumor, Amanda still requires more medical help. Watson's co-workers with WILCO EMS and others are putting together a fundraiser Saturday afternoon.

"People really do care," said Splain. "Just when you think they don't, they really do. It comes out."

A Facebook page called Amanda's Prayer offers fundraiser details and gives further insight into her struggles.

"You would think it would be just a family falling apart," said Kevin Tisdell, a WILCO EMS paramedic and family friend. "But this is such a faith-based family."

"It's actually grown our faith," said Watson. "These kind of things can actually pull you apart and pull you apart from God, but it's really grown us together as a family and a community."

Watson says he has good insurance through Williamson County, but the deductibles, co-pays and medication costs continue to mount. Watson says he realizes the purpose of Saturday's event is to raise funds, but he's just happy he, his wife and Amanda will get a chance to say "thank you."

The fundraiser is Saturday June 8, and is open to all who want to help.

Click here to see photos of Amanda and her family and supporters.

Click here for more information on Amanda's Facebook page.