NEW ORLEANS -- Thanksgiving can get hectic. Between the cooking, the traveling and perhaps even the post-turkey shopping, we can sometimes lose sight of the meaning of the holiday: to give thanks.
At Children's Hospital in New Orleans, giving thanks is a daily routine for parents like Derek and Amanda Patterson. Their infant son Alec was born three months premature with spina bifida. He had to be life-flighted from their hometown in Pineville to the hospital in New Orleans.
"He's a fighter. He was born Aug. 30 and we've been here ever since, fighting with him," said Amanda Patterson.
Alec weighed only 1 pound and 4 ounces when he was admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children's Hospital in New Orleans. His mother said Alec is now close to four pounds. That, she said, is enough to celebrate this Thanksgiving.
"I'm very blessed, very thankful that he's here and we will work through whatever we need to work through in life," said Amanda Patterson.
Spina Bifida can impact Alec's ability to walk and there are other health complications. But his father says his tiny son has already shown resilience that leaves him in awe.
"It's pride off the charts. He's a little warrior and I couldn't have asked for anybody stronger. I know a lot of people in this situation would probably think of what he won't be able to do, but that's not really an issue for me because whatever he can do, he will do," said Derek Patterson.
One floor below the NICU, 12-year-old Austin Lizana is recovering from surgery that removed cancer from his leg. Austin was diagnosed in August with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer.
Above his room number, the word "giggles" is written. Apparently, the young basketball player from Kiln, Miss., has a tough time not smiling.
"I don't know myself how I stay in such a good mood, I just try not to think about it too much," Austin said.
To keep the cancer from returning, Austin says he still has about 40 weeks of chemotherapy and rehabilitation ahead of him. This Thanksgiving, the 12 year old speaks with perspective well beyond his age.
"First, I'm alive, I have parents that support me and help me through all of this, I have roof over my head, I have food on the table," said Austin.
For the record, Austin's favorite color is red and his favorite NBA team is a toss up between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Miami Heat. Austin is already daydreaming of getting back on the basketball court.
Whether it's the chance of Austin getting to play ball again or the chance that the Patterson's son will someday be able to walk, there's a collective gratitude at Children's Hospital.
Many families, though facing some of life's toughest challenges, are grateful for the opportunity of having one more day with their child.
To learn more about Alec Patterson and the fund to benefitting his medical bills visit the sites below:
To learn more about Austin Lizana and his battle against osteosarcoma visit https://www.facebook.com/team.austin.10