FOX31’s Nicole Fierro traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to learn the lifelong impact that treatment has on patients.
For St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, finding cures and saving children means helping families far and wide.
“I was diagnosed back home in my home country of El Salvador,” former patient Carlos Rodriguez said.
In 1996, Rodriguez and his single mom learned he had leukemia. Diagnosed by a doctor in El Salvador, Rodriguez got a referral to St. Jude, sending him across the world to start his battle with cancer at four years old.
“I was so young that I really kind of didn’t understand what was really going on, I just knew I was coming to the U.S. for the first time and I was going to get to see something new,” Rodriguez said. “They told me I was coming to where Elvis lived, so I was excited about that.”
In the birthplace of rock and roll, Rodriguez quickly became a young celebrity himself. Photos from his treatment capture crowds of nurses flocking to his bedside with his electric smile radiating.
“They started right away and I was here for two-and-a-half years, and I will be celebrating 24 years of being cancer-free this November,” Rodriguez said.
Throughout Rodriguez’s entire battle, his family didn’t get a single bill. No kid does.
“They made sure we had everything we needed, and I had no cost,” Rodriguez said. “It was just great to know that the only thing we had to worry about was me getting better.”
Decades later, Rodriguez still returns to campus every day. The former patient is now a part of keeping St. Jude running as a facilities operator in the fundraising office.
“I’ll never be able to repay them for my life, but I’m doing my best to repay them somehow, so I just love it,” Rodriguez said.
Even if you didn’t buy a St. Jude ticket you can still go see the home.
Open houses will be held every weekend through Oct. 9.