Ludowici high-schooler Taylor Brooke McCartney will celebrate her sweet 16 Friday, and the community’s gift, hopefully, will be more birthdays.
Sunbury Crab Company had a benefit Sunday to raise funds for experimental treatments for the teen, who suffers from Gorham’s disease.
Taylor’s condition, which eats away bones, has no cure. Still, she began a series of 10 treatments last month through Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, and the benefit was to help the McCartney family cover costs.
The disease and treatments may have worn, but not stopped Taylor. Friday, after returning from a treatment she was getting ready to escort her boyfriend in the Long County High School basketball homecoming. In the fall, she was crowned 10th grade princess at the football homecoming.
“I refuse to let this slow me down. I’m not going to let something stop me from doing what I like and achieving my goals,” Taylor said.
The daughter of Shawn McCartney and Leslie Wiggins began her travail four years ago with what she thought was a soccer injury.
The process “led her through pain and misdiagnosis and from Savannah to Jacksonville,” according to her grandfather, Bruce McCartney.
Stepfather Jamie Wiggins and maternal grandparents Pat and Wilford Morris have also helped the teen through treatments.
“When Taylor was 11 years old, she was an avid softball and soccer player. During a soccer tournament, she was hit in the shoulder by a ball. It looked as though her shoulder collapsed into her body,” Bruce McCartney said. A pediatrician initially said she had scoliosis, a diagnosis the girl hoped to outgrow.
But Leslie Wiggins, then a nurse-in-training, noticed other issues. After more problems and doctors visits, Taylor was diagnosed with Gorham’s disease.
The National Institute of Health classifies it as a rare disease and does not quantify diagnoses. There are no known cures, though several treatments, including chemotherapy, have been tried.
Taylor has endured 36 radiation treatments and a year of interferon, an antiviral drug.
Her current treatment is an experimental chemotherapy led by Dr. Denise Adams, a hematology/oncology specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
“I think this is year two of a study that they’re using in Cincinnati, and this Dr. Adams, she’s starting to see positive results from this new drug,” Bruce McCartney said.
“So far, it’s been OK,” Taylor said. “It really hasn’t taken effect yet, it should start soon, though, they said. I’ve only had a couple of side effects like my jaw’s hurting.”
The benefit is the third for Taylor, she said.
“I was very, very, very happy that they were willing to have a benefit,” she said. “They’re close friends with our family, and this is the third benefit that I’ve had.”
Bruce McCartney said he was surprised when Clay Maley, son of restaurant owners Barney and Elaine Maley, suggested the benefit.
“This really shocked us,” Bruce McCartney said. “We’ve been friends with the Maleys for a long time… Clay came up and said, ‘You know, we want to do a benefit for Taylor’.”
Clay Maley and Michael Brown, as their band Ally’s Ocean, will play songs from the 90s and 2000s beginning at 6.
The McCartney family is also going to get a dinner out thanks to donations.
“That’s going to be real good for them, too,” Clay Maley said.
That support means the world to the family.
“I appreciate all that they have done and I appreciate their support and the great community that they are,” Taylor said. “I’m very, very blessed.”
“We appreciate everything that our community has done and that they continue to support us…” Leslie Wiggins added.
The restaurant is at 539 Brigantine Dunmore Road in Sunbury.