T.J. Rufty did what even doctors thought was impossible. After nine months of critical care, loss of hearing, and an intensive chemotherapy that left him paralyzed, Rufty celebrated his long awaited return home with family and friends.
"He died three times, and now he's alive. T.J. is a fighter," said Debbie Haberkorn, T.J.'s mother.
The celebration began with a welcoming parade and ended at Rufty's alma mater where he got the chance to catch up on lost time. It was a sense of closure too because Rufty was unable to attend his high school graduation last year. His mom and younger brother received his diploma on his behalf, while he remained in critical care.
"He's been a patient at Johns Hopkins University and Kennedy Krieger Habilitation for the past nine months," said Rita Bradley, an organizer for the Hope 4 T.J. group.
For community members, T.J.'s progress is an inspiration.
"He's strong, he made it. And it just brings a tear to my eye and gives me the chills because its such an amazing thing to see," said Anni Noffsinger, friend and high school track teammate.
T.J. has been in remission for six months and a portion of his hearing has been restored.
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