Samuel Spurgeon meets his hero, Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams, earlier this month in Miami. Samuel met Williams through the Make-a-Wish Foundation which grants special requests for seriously ill children. Courtesy photo.
By Keith Pannell
Ask any parent how it feels when their child is in pain and they’ll tell you it’s one of the worst feelings in the world.
One Cannon Air Force Base family faces that unenviable situation every day.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year (since Samuel’s strokes), that just hit me,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Spurgeon, 27th Communications Squadron. “The first couple of months, he was unable to make a vocal noise, would choke on a few drops of liquid and couldn’t walk for longer than five minutes. This summer, he was running around the yard, eating soft foods and drinking milk shakes. But, he went backwards in September, he has trouble talking now. It’s been tumultuous.”
Spurgeon is talking about his 12-year-old son, Samuel, who has been diagnosed with Moya Moya disease, which affects just 500 Americans. Moya Moya disease causes irreversible blockage of the main blood vessels to the brain, which causes strokes and seizures.
“The name Moya Moya meant nothing to us,” Spurgeon said. “The explanation and initial prognosis was devastating. We immediately feared for his life and the doctors couldn’t give us much hope at the time.”
Since the diagnosis, Samuel has been to a variety of doctors including several military doctors, many visits to a neurologist in Lubbock, a neuroradiologist, three neurosurgeons in three different cities, plus several teams of internal medicine specialists.
Spurgeon said Samuel has tried not to let the disease affect his life. He still plays some soccer in the front yard and hangs out with friends.
“Of course he has times when pain, fear and confusion take over but, for the most part, he is happy, laughing, and joking with his teachers and fellow students.”
Samuel attends an abbreviated class schedule at Marshall Junior High where his fellow students, older and younger, have banded together for his cause.
“They found out Sam had to go to a doctor in Boston and they went to work writing letters asking him to take Sam as his patient,” said Judy Williams, Marshall secretary. “Several student organizations have decided to give a portion of their funds to benefit the Spurgeon family.”
The Spurgeons have been relying on neighbors, friends, the schools , the Cannon Family Support Center and the base chapel for help.
“People can help by donating to the ‘Fund for Sam Spurgeon’ at Citizen’s Bank,” Williams said. “This is a family of six, so if you have a family, you know what it takes, now imagine trying to do that and deal with a rare and life-threatening disease.”
Samuel, and the rest of the Spurgeons, continue to cope. About three weeks ago, the Make a Wish Foundation sent the family to Miami. One of Samuel’s greatest wishes was to meet Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams.
“The whole team signed a football for him,” Spurgeon said. “Including Ricky Williams. That was his wish, to meet and talk with Ricky Williams. I understand in the post-game interview the following week, Williams mentioned getting to meet ‘a boy from New Mexico.’ I wish I had taped that.”
The Spurgeons returned from seeing a neurosurgeon in Denver two weeks ago. Mike Spurgeon said the prognosis was “less than rosy,” but he said his son has raised more than $1,000 for other stroke and heart-attack victims, and it’s tough to keep him down for long.
“Samuel has adopted a key verse for his life; ‘I know the plans for your life, says the Lord, They are plans to prosper you and not of calamity,’ ” Spurgeon said.
“We don’t pretend to have the strength enabling us to overcome the emotions that are there. We depend on God for that. The six of us deal with it on a day-to-day basis and we believe there is more good news to come.”