Twelve-year-old Ezra Almond, of Roland, underwent a serious surgery on Oct. 26, and the Roland-Story community has responded with great support.
The seventh-grader underwent surgery at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital to remove three tumors from his spinal cord. Fortunately, the surgery went well, said his mom, Sarah Almond.
Results showed the tumors to be pilocytic astrocytoma grade 1, a benign tumor that is highly treatable. But due to the tumors’ location on the spine, extra caution is being taken.
After spending several days recovering at Stead, Ezra was moved earlier this week to ChildServe in Johnston.
“Ezra is in good spirits and is making phenomenal progress,” Sarah said.
People in the community are doing a lot to keep his spirits up. For example, Superintendent Matt Patton and his family contacted Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell, who signed a mini-helmet especially for the young Cyclone fan.
Along with cheering for the Clones, Ezra is a huge Norsemen fan, so gifts from the Roland-Story football team were particularly meaningful.
On Nov. 1, Coach Aaron Stensland brought Ezra a Norsemen jersey and a game ball signed by all the players.
“It’s a pretty awesome gift!” Sarah said. “Ezra was very excited — he’s a sports fanatic.”
Stensland met Ezra’s dad Travis in 2008, when he started coaching football at Roland-Story, and Travis was volunteering for the varsity team.
“I also know Ezra as I teach at the middle school and see him quite often in the hall and know he is a huge football fan and especially a Norsemen football fan,” Stensland said. “We knew he would be having his surgery and be in Iowa City for an extended time so wanted to send him something from back home.”
The Norsemen team doesn’t give out game balls often, and it is a team decision and a staff decision, Stensland said.
“In my four years as head coach, we have given out three game balls,” he said. “One to Alex Cunningham, a former Norse player and current junior high coach, when Alex lost his dad. We gave one out to Andy Koester, our athletic trainer this year as he lost his grandfather, and the team decided we would send Ezra a game ball for all he is going through.
“We had all the players sign it and sent a game jersey along with it to have some Norsemen decorations in his room and let him know the entire football program was praying for him and thinking about him.”
Sarah said another key person is Megan Alonzo, one of Ezra’s teachers, who helped coordinated a lot of it.
Ezra was at the Iowa City hospital for two games worth of Hawkeye football. The first game, he didn’t get to see The Wave, where spectators at the stadium wave to the kids in the upper floors of the hospital. Ezra was still flat on his back that day, but he did watch TV as the Cyclones beat TCU.
On Nov. 4, “Ezra got to watch the first half of the Iowa game from ‘The press box’ as they call it here. Desmond King gave up his seat so we could get close enough to the window. (It was) pretty awesome of him,” Sarah said.
Aside from Cyclone and Norsemen sports, Ezra’s interests include video games, sports and reading. He’s an avid disc golfer, a sport where he medaled in this year’s Iowa Games.
At Stead, he was hooked up with video games from the hospital library, and he spent some time playing games like Minecraft on Xbox 1. He also spent some time watching WWE.
He has a “long road to go yet,” but Ezra and his family are thankful to everyone who sent him things and kept him in their prayers.
On Monday, Ezra is settled in at the ChildServe facility in Johnston and will be there anywhere from two to four weeks. If you want to send him a card or letter, this is his address: Ezra Almond, Childserve Transitional Care Unit, PO Box 707, 5406 Merle Hay Road, Johnston, IA 50131.