His was a lucky accident

Published 2:06 am Friday, August 1, 2003

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
NILES -- Josh Seastrom grew from a 5 lb. 8 oz. baby into a strapping young man, weighing over 200 pounds, whom friends and relatives called on when a piece of furniture needed to be moved. Now these same people are offering their help and support as the 19-year-old battles the malignant tumor inside his brain.
Josh and his family might never have known of the tumor, which could have killed him by now, if he hadn't hit an icy patch back on Jan. 2. He was driving his younger sister Janel and her friend, to Edwardsburg High School after Christmas break.
He took the two girls home while a friend waited at the vehicle. When he came back a few minutes later he hunted in the damaged truck dash for his registration papers for the police.
Back at the house his head hurt, so his friend Dustin Carpenter convinced him to go to a doctor. The trip to Lakeland Hospital in Niles for a CAT scan of his head, as it turns out, was to be just the first of many to hospitals in his future, and that of his mother Jana. Before the accident he had no symptoms of any sort.
Josh ended up as a patient at the University of Michigan Health Systems in Ann Arbor, where he underwent a 12-hour operation the third week of February. The doctors were only able to remove about 40 percent of the tumor after making a nearly nine inch incision down the back of his head. "It felt like bugs," on his head, Josh said. "It was weird."
Then Josh had almost daily radiation for weeks. His own stem cells were harvested from his bone marrow. Following three chemotheraphy sessions, approximately one month apart, the cells are reintroduced into his body. The second session is this coming week.
They check his blood count constantly and sometimes he needs tests in the middle of the night. On July 7 he was sent to Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital to get a blood transfusion to get his count up for the next treatment.
A shunt put in his chest, allows medicine to be put directly into his heart. The tubes must be flushed out each day, something Jana still can get herself to do.
As his hair fell out, his friend Chris Pressler shaved his head and brought over his razor to do Josh's. His beard fell off, but amazingly he still has his mustache.
The tumor is rare and usually found in infants. Josh never had any symptoms. Now he feels sick in the mornings. "Chemo feels like the flu," he said. He misses helping others and going fishing and hunting.
Josh probably wouldn't have even minded fixed his truck back up, as he was in a career course to learn auto body work. Something he would like to continue learning. When he does go back to school he will have to make up credits he has lost, before he can graduate.
Both of Josh's parents graduated from Brandywine High School. Josh's grandparents also live in Niles, Bill and Carol Seastrom on Bertrand and Bob and Jean Franks on Tam-O-Shanter Lane.
When Billie, Josh's dad, had time off from his midnight shift as a supervisor at Duo-Form in Edwardsburg, he and his son worked on remodeling the house on Follmer where they have lived for 20 years.
Friends and neighbors have wanted to help with all the additional expenses, even though the family is hopeful will insurance will cover medical bills. A benefit will be held on Saturday, Aug. 2 at the Edwardsburg American Legion on U.S. 12 from 1 to 8 p.m.
There will be raffles, door prizes, games for the kids, and live music by Classic Rock -- The Potentials. Tickets can be purchased for a $8 donation from Jana Seastrom at (269) 663-8837.