ALTON — A family’s strong faith keeps it moving forward as it continues to deal with the multiple health challenges of one of their own.
On July 11, the McDonald family is holding a fundraiser at Lifehouse Community Church in the hopes they can get a van outfitted with a wheelchair lift for little Levi.
Levi McDonald was just 3 weeks old in December 2010 when he was rushed to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Unresponsive and septic, Levi began seizing so much the hospital put him into a coma for two weeks.
Subsequently diagnosed with Group B streptococcal meningitis, Levi was left with a host of health issues, including hydrocephalus, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment. GBS meningitis is a virus usually transmitted to the baby around the time of birth.
“It was really touch and go,” said his mother, Lynn McDonald. “It was a shock. He’d had two or three perfect doctor exams before that. Then one day his lips were turning blue and I thought, ‘Something is just not right.’”
Right from the start, McDonald, 44, and her husband, Patrick, 46, were determined not to be defeated, no matter how many times the doctors came to them with bad news.
“If not for Jesus, I would not be able to handle it,” she said. That’s when she started the website, www.prayforlevi.com.
“We sent out for requests and got prayers from everywhere – other churches, people,” she said. “We have strong faith.”
Her mother, Sharon Henderson, said Levi’s name means “joined.”
“This little boy has brought so many people together – his doctors, teachers, everyone he meets. He’s very loving. You can feel the spirituality.”
When Levi was 17 months old, he was having more than 200 seizures a day. Today, at age 4 ½, he only has a few a day, lasting just seconds each. His mom credits a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet with his improvement.
“He was on five seizure meds at a time, once, and none were working,” she said. “The neurologist told us we were exhausting all of our options and suggested the (ketogenic) diet.”
Skeptical at first, the McDonalds decided to give it a try. It worked. Levi was on the diet until May and is no longer taking seizure medicines.
His mom and grandmother said Levi is happiest around other people and loves to be taken to parks to watch other kids play.
“He’s a happy boy when he’s around people. He loves to be with his sister (2-month-old Sharalynn) and likes to watch television,” McDonald said . “At 4 ½, he knows what you’re saying but he can’t respond.”
Levi can’t walk or crawl and attends Bedell ARC in Wood River to help with his developmental delay.
“Levi is starting to learn and grow and be happy. He may never walk or he might, but he’ll always need a wheelchair for most of his activities.”
A few years ago, Henderson gave the McDonalds her 2002 van, hoping they could outfit it with a wheelchair lift. But now it sits in their driveway, broken down. A replacement van could cost up to $60,000 for a newer model and another $10,000 or so for the lift.
The family has set up a GoFundMe page, “A Lift for Levi,” and has raised $750 so far. On July 11, the McDonalds will be holding an event at Lifehouse Community Church to raise more funds. Part fundraiser, part celebration, the event will have food, live music and activities.
“We’re not charging a cover fee for this,” McDonald said. “We just want people to come out and spend a fun day out in the sun.”
“We’re just blessed with whatever we can raise,” Henderson said. “We know it won’t be the whole $60,000.”
Give Levi a Lift Fundraiser
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 11
Where: Lifehouse Community Church, 3825 Seminary Road, Alton
What: Event features live music all day, a car show, games for kids, vendors such as Avon, 31, and Scentsy, a bake sale, a 50-50 raffle and a silent auction. Vendors are still needed and the cost is $10 plus one item donated for the silent auction.