“At that moment, when they turned the check around, I didn’t see Leo as disabled. I saw him running at recess, on a football team and calling me mom,” Amanda Goodinson said. “It was like a giant hug from God saying, I’m here for you. Everything is going to be okay.”
Goodinson, 22, is a soon-to-be young mother, but 20 weeks into her pregnancy her unborn son, Leo, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is the buildup of fluid in the brain, which creates pressure inside the skull. This condition can lead to both physical and mental disabilities later in life. Leo will need immediate brain surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital after his birth scheduled to occur on Oct. 30.
In trying to provide her son with the best chance in life, Goodinson found a new treatment performed at Duke Hospital in North Carolina, where the family will drive him once Leo is stable to make the trip.
The procedure harvests cord blood to harness the regenerative and powerful stem cells. These cells are put back into an infant’s body in hopes of repairing those cells in the brain damaged by the pressure caused by hydrocephalus. Although not a cure, the treatment has seen some success in improving both physical and developmental growth in patients.
Due to the expensive nature of the treatment, one infusion alone costs $11,000. Goodinson, her family and friends decided to hold a fundraiser, Laughs for Leo, with the goal of $14,000. Laughs for Leo, which partnered with Funny 4 Funds, was held this past weekend at the Cranston Portuguese Club. The event raised more than double their goal.
Goodinson said that before the event 35 tables had been reserved and not even an hour into door sales tickets sold out. Possibly more than 460 came out for the event, and the bar even ran out of liquor by the end of the night.
“It’s incredible how many people came to support me, Leo and my family. Everyone managed to squeeze in, sit with strangers and make a new friend. People were even just standing against the walls, just wanting to be a part of this fundraiser, Goodinson said. “I don’t think anyone expected so many people. I guess they underestimated Laughs for Leo.”
After ticket and t-shirt sales, raffles and donations, Laughs for Leo raised $33,710, a record-breaking amount for Funny 4 Funds. When the final amount was revealed Goodinson said there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Goodinson didn’t believe she would be able to raise the initial goal of $14,000 and was shocked to see the final total.
With such an amazing amount, Leo will not receive one but the maximum of three infusions. Goodinson explained that with more stem cell infusions there is a better chance of the procedure being successful in “rejuvenating lost cells,” which will help improve Leo’s cognitive development.
“I was willing to do anything just to get Leo one infusion,” Goodinson said. “I never thought we would ever be able to afford more than one. Now he can get them all. There are no human words to express how thankful I am and how much this has meant to the both of us.”
As a young mother, Goodinson was scared with the diagnosis, but one by one “the puzzle pieces have all come together,” and she feels hopeful for the future.
“Leo is going to be so strong,” she said. “He is already so loved and supported. So many people are rooting for me and Leo; we can’t let them down now.”
Before and after the event, family, friends and even strangers have reached out to Goodinson to show their support, encourage her to stay positive, and provide any help where they can.
Goodinson was nervous going into the Laughs for Leo fundraiser, especially since it wasn’t “the happiest of circumstances” that brought everyone together, but it really turned into a night of celebration of Leo’s life in a “room full of love.”
“This has just been life-changing. I know the next time I’m in the position to help others I want to give back to all those who helped me. Something like this really changes your outlook on people,” Goodinson said.
After the fundraiser, knowing she had overcome the financial burden to providing Leo with the best care and that she has emotional support from her entire community, Goodinson felt an immense sense of relief and “slept like a baby.”
For more information or to donate to Goodinson and her son Leo’s medical costs visit, www.gofundme.com/yznn24.