Boy who survived meningococcal disease given $2,000 worth of gifts
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
12/15/10 at 4:11 AM
The little boy who made headlines earlier this year for surviving a rare, deadly form of meningococcal disease had his Christmas wish list fulfilled Tuesday.
Employees from Kimberly-Clark's Jenks factory surprised 7-year-old Jeremiah Mitchell at Tulsa's Bryant Elementary School, where he is now a student, with $2,000 worth of gifts.
"Who's that for?" a visiting Santa asked Jeremiah.
"For me!" he said, as he was wheeled into the school's library media center after lunch.
Jeremiah was one of seven Oologah-Talala Public Schools students who contracted a rare and deadly blood infection in March.
Two second-graders - Andrew Gregory Thomas, 7, and Shuache Moua, 8 - died March 11, but Jeremiah survived after operations to remove his arms and legs and to reconstruct his jaw and face. Volunteers from Kimberly-Clark were working on a community service project for Bryant Elementary School when they learned that Jeremiah had transferred there.
"We were like, 'We have to do something for this family,' " said Lisa Devins, who coordinates service projects for Kimberly-Clark when she's not working on a production line.
In less than a week, employees pooled money and purchased gifts for Jeremiah and secured a slew of gift certificates from local retailers, including Reasor's, Rib Crib and Miss Jackson's, for his mother, Michaela Mitchell.
Kimberly-Clark employees dressed as Santa and his elves delivered a 32-inch flat-screen TV and gobs of clothing and toys decked out with Jeremiah's favorite superhero, Spider-Man.
He immediately asked his mother to take him out of his wheelchair so he could check out his new kid-sized Spider-Man recliner.
As soon as she placed him in the seat, he began bouncing up and down, using the small nubs that remain of his legs, and smiling and giggling. School officials and Kimberly-Clark employees alike laughed and applauded.
"You see the blessings God has given you and you try to pass it on. I'm glad to be here and to be a part of this. It has really touched my heart," said Veniece Kirksey, who is a college student from the Houston area completing a semester-long internship at Kimberly-Clark.
Jeremiah took one look at the wrapped gifts his mother and the volunteers were holding in front of him and asked to open them. He used his mouth to tear tissue paper out of gift bags and to tear wrapping paper off the boxes.
"Oooooh," he exclaimed several times at the site of Wii games and DVDs, naming each of the Marvel comics superheroes he saw on the packaging. "I got a lot of stuff! I got some new movies, Mom!"
Michaela Mitchell said she had no idea of the extent of Wednesday's holiday surprise before she arrived. When asked about Jeremiah's progress, she is quick to credit doctors at Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati, where he was hospitalized for several months and where he is expected to receive treatment through his 21st birthday.
"They have done what I thought to be impossible," Mitchell said, watching Jeremiah chat with Santa. "If someone had told me in six months he would have balance and could hold his head up, I wouldn't have believed it."
Jeremiah is in the process of being fitted for prosthetics and will soon undergo surgery to reconstruct his lower lip and repair his right eyelid.
In the meantime, he is settling into school at Bryant Elementary, where he transferred to be with his same-aged cousin, Lindsey.
"They're in the same class, and that helps him feel comfortable," Mitchell said. "People were a little bit afraid at first because they weren't sure about his condition or what he was capable of, but he has settled in. It helps him to be a normal kid."
Original Print Headline: Christmas comes early for boy
Andrea Eger 581-8470
Jeremiah Mitchell, 7, receives a kiss from his mom, Michaela Mitchell, in a pile of donated Christmas gifts at Bryant Elementary School, where Jeremiah has transferred. Mitchell lost both arms and legs after surviving meningococcal disease. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Jeremiah Mitchell opens a Christmas gift with his mouth. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Jeremiah Mitchell, 7, feels a soft Spider-Man blanket, one of the Christmas gifts he received at Bryant Elementary School on Tuesday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World