Families have plenty to celebrate | Kitsap Week

Ijah Williamson is one of four children that the North Kitsap Herald reported on in 2013 who will be celebrating good health with their families this year.  - Contributed photo
Ijah Williamson is one of four children that the North Kitsap Herald reported on in 2013 who will be celebrating good health with their families this year.
— image credit: Contributed photo

POULSBO — For once, a conk on the head led to good news.

It used to be that if Isaac Tate hit his head, it could spark an epileptic seizure. But it happened recently while playing and … nothing.

That’s great news for a 10-year-old boy who last December suffered 96 seizures in one month. In fact, he’s been seizure-free for eight months now. A medication that had a 1 percent chance of being effective is working. And Isaac doesn’t have to have surgery.

“His seizures are in remission,” his mom, Chelsea Tate, said

Dec. 17. “He’s able to play on the playground again.”

Christmas is extra special this year for the Tates and several other Kitsap families. The gift: Their children’s health.

Here’s a look at some children the North Kitsap Herald reported on earlier this year – children their parents are calling their Christmas miracles.

Ijah Williamson

At age 3, Ijah knew pain. Pancreatitis affected his body’s ability to produce insulin and other digestive enzymes. The inflammation caused severe abdominal pain.

In August, doctors at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital removed his pancreas and transplanted insulin-producing cells to his liver. Doctors also removed his appendix, gall bladder, spleen, and a portion of upper intestine.

Within six weeks, he was off all of his pain medications. He’s doing well and attending preschool. On Dec. 16, he rode the school bus for the first time.

“A month and a half after surgery, he all of a sudden started taking off — the pain was gone, he speaks in sentences now, he runs and bounces. I couldn’t ask for anything more for the holidays,” said his mom, Sheila Williamson. “It’s going to be a wonderful Christmas.”

The family is still not without challenges. Ijah’s dad, Tim, a union electrician, has been out of work since April. “We’re praying that work comes around,” she said. Tim also has pancreatitis, and daughter Aleksys, 11, is showing minimal symptoms, but no pain.

Amid the pain, some blessings: Home Depot donated hardwood flooring for the Williamsons’ home — easier to roll an IV pole on wheels — and Ashley Furniture donated new furniture to improve the flow of movement in the house. In those precarious days before surgery, Make-A-Wish had approved Ijah’s wish of a playground; the family wants to expand that wish into a playground for children with medical issues.

This Christmas, the Williamsons won’t be opening presents around the tree. “We’re going to take the kids out and try to give back to the community some. Maybe some meals,” Sheila said. “We see life differently now.”

How you can help: Go to The Foundation for Childhood Pancreatitis was founded by the Williamsons to raise awareness of the issue and provide compassionate support for children and their families.

Carmen Garringer

In January, Carmen Garringer, then 8, began the first of nine four-week cycles of chemotherapy treatment for extraosseous Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer.

In support, classmates at Suquamish Elementary School shaved their heads, businesses and residents raised money to help defray the family’s expenses, and Chief Kitsap Academy students held a prom for her.

On Nov. 29, mom Jaci Garringer reported, “We had so much to be thankful for this holiday, but the tops of all our lists is Carmen being in remission. Her hair is coming back too! I’m excited for her to get to be a regular kid again and blend in with the masses. While she handled the attention and love most days with more grace than I could muster, she is happiest when involved and not the center of it. She has us signed up for every school activity she can get her hands on and is loving being back at school full time.

“Her next scans will be in early January and we are all expecting a big fat clear when they come back. Happy holidays to all our [Caring for Carmen] friends!”

How you can help:;


Ian Gunnell

Ian Gunnell, 7, completed his last chemo treatment at the end of November. As you read this, the family is waiting for word that his white blood cell count is high enough for him to go home for Christmas. It also would mean his leukemia is in remission.

“We’d then go into a three-year maintenance phase [of treatment], but we’d only have to go to Seattle once a month,” Ian’s mom, Tanya, said. “It’s where we want to be in his treatment. But he’d still be actively fighting [leukemia].”

In Seattle, the family lives in a rental house across the street from Children’s Hospital. Ian attends school at the hospital. “That consistency and learning and being with other kids, that’s been great for him,” Tanya said.

Melissa Holmes, a family friend, said the emotional support from the community means a lot to the Gunnells.

“Cancer is long and hard — and the hard doesn’t go away,” she said.

Incidentally, the community raised $120,000 in five and a half months for Ian’s fund.

The Gunnells are looking forward to being home “and trying to figure out what the ‘new normal’ means,” Tanya said. “We know life beyond this exists and that we’re part of a great community.”

How you can help:


Isaac Tate

You’ve already read Isaac’s story. The family thanks those who helped them meet the costs not covered by medical insurance.

Local band The Exchange performed a concert at Bayside Church, raising $1,000. An event at Majestic Mountain Coffee raised $1,500.

The silver lining: Parents of children with epilepsy have sought out Isaac’s mom for advice and support. And the Epilepsy Foundation Northwest may start a support group in North Kitsap.

How you can help:;


Editor's note: This version corrects the frequency of Isaac Tate's seizures in the third paragraph.

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