Like other toddlers, Jaidyn Beam is always full of smiles. The 1-year-old keeps on smiling, despite the many medical difficulties he has endured throughout his first year of life.
The son of Merissa Sandusky and Jason Beam of Johnstown was diagnosed with myelomeningocele — the most severe form of spina bifida — before he was born. The birth defect, the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth, has required many surgeries and nearly a dozen trips to Philadelphia Children's Hospital.
While pregnant, Sandusky underwent prenatal spina bifida repair in an effort to help her unborn son live as healthy a life as possible. The surgery was risky in and of itself, and Sandusky was one of the first women in the world who agreed to go through with the procedure, which had not been under a standard clinical trial run.
The surgery was successful and a few months later, Jaidyn was born; he showed no signs of paralysis or hydrocephalus. Over the past few months, however, he has struggled with various problems that require medical attention.
Tina Sandusky, Jaidyn's grandmother, explained Jaidyn's medical problems.
"At this time, he does show delays (in) crawling and standing. He has not been able to attend swimming lessons with his last few surgeries and infections," she said. "He currently has cysts on his spine and a decision on what and when they plan on handling this is not determined with him still having problems with infections."
Because of Jaidyn's ongoing need for treatment, his family has decided to host a benefit basket party to raise money for his medical expenses. The basket party is scheduled to take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Friedens Lutheran Church. Doors will open at 11 a.m. and guests will have the opportunity to purchase a $5 meal ticket and chances to win baskets, door prizes, gift cards and more.
Sandusky said that the purpose of the basket party is two-fold: to raise money and to show support.
"We wanted to help them financially as well as show the love and support that the family needs through all the struggling times," Sandusky said.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call 814-754-1373. A $5 donation renders 20 chances on prizes.
Sandusky encourages the community to attend the basket party and help her grandson, whom she describes as a "strong, loving, brave, precious miracle."
And as for that smile?
"He always seems to keep that smile on his face that melts your heart," she said.