Newport News, Va. (WAVY) – The U.S. Navy brought Petty Officer Second Class Jeremy Dodson and his wife, Amy, from California to Hampton Roads in the early summer of 2012.
“About two months after we found out we were pregnant, they told us we were moving to Virginia,” says Amy, who had also served in the Navy. “So we drove cross country, pregnant, with two dogs in the back of the truck. And I was happy.”
The happiness stuck for another year. Amy gave birth to Jase in November. He had ten fingers, ten toes, and a full head of hair.
But by the time Jase was six months old, doctors noticed he was underweight and diagnosed him with failure to thrive. Two months later, they noticed his skull was too big and ordered a CT scan.
“I got a phone call from Jeremy saying they found a massive tumor in his brain,” Amy said.
Surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation followed. The Dodsons describe the year and a half after Jase’s initial diagnosis as “living in a bubble” while they tried to keep him healthy and alive.
That phase ended in late January, when Jase’s condition deteriorated. Doctors gave them options that might have extended Jase’s life by a week or two, Jeremy said, but those two weeks would come at a cost of great pain and suffering.
“I think we have a couple of good days left,” he said. “Where we’re at now is making him comfortable, giving him everything we can give him. Whenever he opens his eyes, I want to see a smile.”
What makes Jase smile the most is people he loves, and people who love him, but most of the Dodsons’ family lives in California.
Since family is what they desperately need, people in Hampton Roads are making sure that’s what they get.
Friends set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to fly family out and put everyone in a hotel at the beach together.
“When he saw that my father was here, he lit up and he tried to climb out of the car with his seat belt on,” Jeremy said. “He wanted Grandpa.”
Even though many of the people who made this happen are complete strangers, the Dodsons say they consider them family.
“The love, the support, the generosity in this time of need, it’s been amazing,” Amy said. “Sometimes you wonder if there are good people in the world, and we found those good people.”
Many come from the military community, like Spencer Williams, a retired Navy chief, who helped organize the effort to help the Dodsons.
“He is the son of a couple that have served this country for years,” Williams wrote in an email to WAVY. “I feel that we need to help them out.”
Although military service took him away from family, Dodson says he doesn’t regret it because of the care and support given by hospital staff and his fellow sailors.
“I owe every day and every year that I can serve,” he said. “I owe that for my family and what they’ve done for me, personally. The military community is not just a community. It’s a brotherhood. It’s not a corporation. It’s a family, a very big family.”
The Dodsons say they also plan to use money donated on the GoFundMe page for Jase’s funeral and burial, which will be in California, and for any other expenses related to his end-of-life care.
Photos courtesy of the Dodson family and Erica Robertson Photography