COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Sumter family is getting help from community donations after a tough diagnosis. 18-month-old Dominic Smith was diagnosed with a brain tumor and a family friend is fundraising to help with medical costs.
"This is not something that you plan for and expect to ever happen," Dominic's mother Melanie shared. "You never really think that it would ever happen to you."
But it’s a new reality for Smith and her family after doctors found a plum-size tumor in her Dominic’s head.
"He is a very energetic, full of life, 18-month-old," she smiled. "He’s very sweet, very loving, likes to be loved and cuddled a lot."
And now he’s battling a grade two ependymoma after his parents noticed he was walking off-balance.
"Our first initial symptom is he would hold his head to the right. He would literally just lean his head and walk normally…then all of a sudden he started walking really unbalanced," Smith shared. "He would kind of trip and fall or he would swerve to the right really far and then come back. And he was walking perfectly before so it was just something that was completely odd."
Thankfully, Smith trusted her gut. The message she's learned through the journey is the importance of following her instincts.
"If they think something’s wrong, don’t stop until you get answers," Smith advised other parents who may see something off. "If I had let this go, if we had not bothered to go back and forth to the pediatrician, we would’ve never known"
Dominic just had surgery to remove the tumor wrapped around his brain stem. For now, his parents are splitting their time between their home in Sumter and Prisma Health Children's Hospital in Columbia. Soon, he will head to Florida for radiation.
"As a parent, I can’t imagine…um…going through what they’re having to go through right now," family friend Ryan White told me. "We want them to know that they’re not alone and that they have friends and family that they can lean on and count on through this."
That's why White is trying to help. She's organized a fundraiser to assist with medical bills.
"What a blessing in such a short amount of time because…we just launched this just a couple days ago and just seeing the response from that is truly heartwarming," White said. "Especially this time of year, you know, you just feel the tugging of your heartstrings and know there’s a true need here and this little boy needs all the love and prayers that he can get."
Smith and her family are grateful.
"We have a really huge village," she smiled. "We’re just looking forward to having our family back, having a healthy child and having our children together and just being back to being family."
For information on how you can help, you can visit Melanie's Facebook page.