Special to Find It In Fondren (Annie Oeth/UMMC Public Affairs)
KJ Fields’ winning attitude on and off the courts has him prepared for a year of representing the state as its 2018 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion.
The 12-year-old Mize Attendance Center student will be a spokesman for the state’s only hospital dedicated to pediatrics, Batson Children’s Hospital. Each year, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, identifies children with remarkable medical stories as Champions to represent the millions of children treated at CMNH hospitals every year.
KJ uses a wheelchair, but he hasn’t let his spinal cord injury stop him from playing guard and forward for the Lakeshore Foundation Sharks basketball team in Birmingham, Alabama, making the honor roll at Mize Attendance Center, volunteering at the Sanderson Farms Championship and even surfing in California.
“I am very thankful for this opportunity,” KJ said, “and for everything that Batson Children’s Hospital has done for me. I hope I can make everyone proud.”
University of Southern Mississippi mascot Seymour helped Mississippi First Lady Deborah Bryant and Miss Mississippi Anne Elizabeth Buys in celebrating the announcement. KJ and his family are fans of Southern Miss, and his mother and father, DeeWanda and Kelvin Fields, both USM graduates, met while students there.
“Every chance we get, we all go to the Rock to see the Golden Eagles play,” said DeeWanda. “When KJ saw Seymour, he lit up!”
Andrew Russell, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals coordinator at Batson, predicts KJ will be an excellent representative for the hospital and Mississippi.
“I’ve seen K.J. roll into a room full of 200 students for one of our dance marathons not knowing anyone. Next thing you know, he is dancing all over the place and has a line of people who want to take their photo with him,” Russell said. “He will be a great representative for Batson Children’s Hospital and for Mississippi.”
Helping Batson Children’s Hospital is “an honor,” said Kelvin. “We love everything about Batson. They saved K.J.’s life.”
KJ had just graduated from kindergarten and was set on a summer playing tee-ball when he was struck by a car while riding a go-cart.
“When we reached KJ, he was unconscious and not breathing,” said DeeWanda. “His grandfather performed CPR for what seemed like an eternity.”
“My PaPa (Fountain McNair) was giving me CPR,” KJ said of the time between the accident and when the ambulance arrived. “I always thank him for keeping me alive.”
KJ was taken by ambulance first to Magee General Hospital and then, by AirCare helicopter, to Batson Children’s Hospital.
He had a mild concussion, his right lung had collapsed, and there was internal bleeding in his chest and brain along with lacerations to his liver and spleen. Doctors were most concerned, though, about his spinal fracture, she said.
DeeWanda knew that, at Batson, KJ would get the best of care. She was born at UMMC, and sickle cell treatments there have kept her healthy.
“I loved it there,” she said of Batson Children’s Hospital. “I went there until I was grown. I knew KJ was going to be well taken care of.”
In spite of his spinal cord injury, “KJ is a very active and athletic child,” she said. “His natural ability, cheerful attitude and intelligence will drive him to succeed in life in spite of his accident.”
Tara Husband, assistant director of pediatric rehabilitation services at Batson, said KJ’s winning attitude have been an inspiration. “He always has such a positive attitude to meet whatever challenges he is facing. His father was at therapy with him, and it was always a competition, always a game. That makes therapy fun, and KJ progressed quickly. With KJ, the sky’s the limit. He’s going to be a great Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion.”
Dr. Amanda Witt, associate professor of neurology and KJ’s pediatric neurologist since the accident, said his achievements in academics as well as athletics make him an inspiration to others.
“KJ is a serious, focused student and athlete,” she said. “From the time he was injured at 6 years old, he always was ready to learn what he needed to do to move forward. He is very athletically gifted and learned the skills needed to be independent at a surprisingly fast pace. He has always been quiet and composed, mature for his age. He excels in academics as well.”
KJ balances his studies with traveling around the United States to participate in athletic competitions including basketball, track and even surfing.
“He has been recognized as a rising junior Paralympic athlete,” said Witt, “and he may represent us at the national level someday.
Witt said his family are also champions. “They have been very supportive and have sought out opportunities for him to participate in these activities. They have also made arrangements for his travel and have taken excellent care of him. They need a lot of credit!
The Fields family documents KJ’s medical journey, along with events ranging from basketball games to visits with Mississippi First Lady Deborah Bryant, through the Facebook page “Push On KJ.”
“KJ is an awesome kid,” DeeWanda said. “He loves the Lord and his family and friends, and he is determined to walk again one day. But until them, he will continue to push on!”