Askewville family banks on power of prayer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ASKEWVILLE – All the money in the world cannot purchase the power of prayer.

Lee and Angel Mizelle of Askewville will be in Greenville this morning (Thursday) where major surgery will be performed on their seven-year-old son, Alex. While the family has no medical insurance, they will enter this life-changing moment knowing that prayer from family, friends and even total strangers will help ease their anxiety.

“All we can do now is leave it all in the hands of the Lord,” said Mrs. Mizelle, an Aulander native who serves as an assistant teacher at Bethel Christian School (BCS) in Askewville. “This (surgery) has to be done.”

On Wednesday morning, Alex, a first-grader at BCS, showed no signs of anxiety. His focus was on TV where “Sponge Bob” held his attention. Every so often he would peer over the armrest of the couch, his eyes, so full of youthful wonder, staring at his mother and father while they went over the timeline of his medical condition.

“If you look at him or watch him interact with his sisters (Donna, 14, and Monica, 10) or with his friends, you would think he was just a normal, seven-year-old,” the mother said. “But inside that little body is a problem, one we’re hoping the Lord will guide the surgeon’s hands to repair.”

Alex suffers from Chiari Malformation (CM), a complex group of disorders characterized by herniation of the cerebellum through the large opening in the base of the skull into the spinal canal. The herniated tissue blocks the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and can lead to the formation of a cavity within the spinal cord.

There are three main types of CM. Alex has CM 1, the simplest and most prevalent form. It is rarely apparent at birth and patients may experience no symptoms. CM 2 and CM 3 are more severe congenital malformations that are apparent at birth and associated with complex defects of the brain and spinal cord.

Mrs. Mizelle explained said Alex was first thought to have leukemia. Those tests were performed in July of last year where x-rays revealed Thoracic Scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. In November, an MRI revealed Alex suffered from CM 1.

“From taking him to doctor’s appointments and the tests he had to go through, Alex is aware that something is not exactly right with his body,” Angel noted. “He doesn’t say a lot about it. He knows he’s going to the hospital on Thursday, but he told me he’d be there for one day.”

Of course mom and dad know differently. They have been told to prepare for 7-10 days in the hospital after the surgery followed by 4-6 weeks of recovery time at home.

While in Greenville, the family, minus Alex, will stay in the Ronald McDonald House, a charitable “home away from home” for families of children undergoing medical procedures/treatments.

Dr. Keith Tucci, a 23-year medical veteran specializing in neurosurgery, will perform the operation. The Mizelle’s said they couldn’t have asked for a better doctor and hospital staff to work with.

“We tried to get Alex into Duke (Hospital), but without insurance they wouldn’t admit him,” Angel said. “So we went to Pitt Memorial in Greenville, a place where we’ve been treated very well.”

The family attempted to secure help from Medicaid, but was denied. They have received financial and spiritual assistance from their church, Ebenezer Assembly of God, and a collection taken on their behalf at Harrison’s Grocery in Askewville.

“We’ll get through this,” said Lee Mizelle, a self-employed chicken farmer. “All we ask for is for folks to keep us in their prayers because prayer is more powerful than all the money in the world.”