Meet Ambassador Child Grayson Irwin

Photo by Stacey Steinberg

Grayson Irwin was a happy, content baby who loved to laugh and rarely cried. It wasn’t until he turned 11 months that he started exhibiting viral symptoms similar to those of chicken pox. But after four doctor visits in three weeks – and progressively worsening symptoms – it was clear to his parents, Brady and Janelle, that something much more severe was the cause.

“As a mother, all I could tell the doctors was ‘something isn’t right,’” Janelle recalled. “His pediatrician sent for immediate bloodwork, and while they never mentioned the word ‘leukemia,’ it was the only word that kept repeating in my head.”

Just hours after his blood tests, the Irwins were called into their pediatrician’s office to learn that Grayson’s body appeared to be showing signs of leukemia, and UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville was expecting their arrival.

“We were reassured that UF Health Shands was the best place for Grayson, and we soon discovered that was absolutely correct,” Janelle said.

Shortly after arriving at UF Health Shands, Grayson was diagnosed with Infant T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a type of blood cancer that starts from white blood cells in the bone marrow and can spread throughout the body to other organs. Because of his young age, Grayson was considered high risk and was started on a clinical trial protocol. After living in the hospital for six months to receive chemotherapy, medications and steroids, Grayson was discharged but would need to return weekly for treatments.

“Because Grayson and I lived at the hospital for a good part of the year, everyone in the hospital became family,” Janelle said. “The facilities were bright and welcoming and truly intended for children. From the tiniest detail of the room to the entertainment equipment, I know Children’s Miracle Network had a huge part in that – and without those things, the days would have been much more challenging.”

Now in his second year of treatment, Grayson receives intravenous chemotherapy at UF Health Shands once a month and chemotherapy medications and steroids at home. While his diagnosis carries a 10 percent survival rate, the clinical trial he joined has proved a 40 to 60 percent survival rate.

“Research is coming a long way and Grayson is living proof of that,” Janelle said. “I am so thankful for Children’s Miracle Network playing such a huge role in allowing me to celebrate my son’s second birthday.”