Georgia father and son run relay to celebrate teen's survival

Image 1 of 9

Zeke and Brian Ussery are training for a marathon to raise money for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Running together to honor just how far this Carroll County 14-year old has come, since Zeke suddenly got sick two years ago.

 "It kind of just changed my whole perspective on how I viewed my life," Zeke Ussery says.

It started with a virus.

"Literally he just got a cold, and that's it," Brian Ussery says.

But that cold virus inflammed Zeke's liver, and then his spleen. 

And then, his blood counts: his platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells, started dropping.

"I was tired all the time," Zeke Ussery says.  "My skin was pale, I could barely do anything without running out of breath."

Dr. Karen Zimowski, a pediatrician at Children's Healthcare and Instructor at the Emory School of Medicine, and her team discovered was Zeke had aplastic anemia.
His bone marrow, which is the body's factory for new blood cells, had shut down.
"So, with aplastic anemia, your bone marrow stops making cells," Zimowski says.  "So, without treatment that would be fatal."

Stuck in the hospital, Zeke started researching his disorder, putting together a report for his doctors at Children's.

"If you know what is happening with your body, it's almost easier to take the blow," he says. "It almost, like, softens it, if you think about it."

Because Zeke's immune system was short-circuiting and attacking his healthy bone marrow, he was put on powerful medications to suppress his immune system. The drugs caused joint pain and other symptoms.
"I couldn't sleep at night because the pain was so bad," he says.

They weren't sure if the medication would work, but it did.

"At 12 weeks, they started to notice that my bone marrow was starting to create blood," Zeke Ussery says. "I was creating blood cells, platelets, white blood cells."

The young man is no longer anemic.

"He is not at increased risk of infection," Dr. Zimowski says.

Last year, Brian ran in the Marathon By Midnight relay at SunTrust Park, raising $70,000 for Children's.
This year, Zeke will join that team.

"I want to help the people who helped me," he says.

It's his "thank you," for the team and the treatment that gave him a second chance.
"It's amazing and I just want to give back."

The relay will begin Friday, September 13, 2019, at 5 p.m. Teams of 4 participants will run 113 collective laps around Braves Field at SunTrust Park, all to raise money for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.