Meet Super Jos
Josie Greco, Age 9, from Hillsville, PA
Sidekicks: Mom, dad, family and friends
When she’s not busy overcoming obstacles: Josie loves to read, post on Facebook, listen to music and dance. She’s also active with her Girl Scout troop and church.
Did you know fact: Josie has been backstage during several country music venues. She has played the drum kit with the Rascal Flatt crew and has an autographed guitar from Thomas Rhett!
Why Josie is a #ACHero: Josie was born 11 weeks premature and suffered extensive brain and kidney damage during a traumatic delivery. Since birth, Josie’s winning spirit and strength have helped her get through countless hours of therapy and numerous surgeries to overcome the many challenges caused by cerebral palsy.
Josie’s Story: Weighing in at 2-pounds, 15-inch long, Josephine “Josie” Greco arrived in this world a fighter. Her first fight came at delivery and then, 5 days later, she defended her ‘survivor’ title. Now 9, Josie remains undefeated and is a true champion in every sense of the word.
At 29 weeks old, Josie experienced a shortage of blood flow to her brain and kidneys during delivery. Five days later, with acute kidney failure and a collapsed lung, she was transported to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Akron Children’s Hospital for care.
“The doctors told my husband and I, ‘give us 6 hours and we’ll do all we can,’” said Jean Greco, Josie’s mom. “She just survived a traumatic birth and now this…I was so fearful of what the next conversation may bring.”
Josie made it.
Once stable, further testing showed that, because of the complications at birth, extensive damage had occurred in the front lobe of Josie’s brain. She was later diagnosed with moderate cerebral palsy (CP).
Doctors prepared the Greco’s for the real possibility that Josie would need a feeding tube and dialysis for life; she’d never be able to sit up or have use of her left side; and, she’d need a kidney transplant within the first year of life, as soon as she reached 22 pounds.
But, by the time Josie left the NICU 69 days later, the doctors gave the family a very different report.
“The doctors told us, ‘clearly, Josie doesn’t follow the medical books,’” said Jean. “She does things on her own time and in her own way, which is still true to this day. When we left the NICU, we were convinced Josie had the potential to prove every specialist wrong …she could beat the odds to the best of her ability.”
Josie spent much of her first few years at Akron Children’s being treated for chronic kidney disease, gastrointestinal and neurodevelopmental issues that included multiple surgeries and continued therapies.
As an infant, Josie started physical and occupational therapy, working 13 hours a week, to gain strength and function. By age 2, she was walking with a walker.
Not quite 6 months old, Josie had surgery to reposition her stomach and insert a feeding tube. A year later, she suffered a hernia and required a major surgery to reconstruct her digestive system – stomach, diaphragm and esophagus – to provide comfort when being tube fed. Josie continued with intense feeding, physical and occupational therapies.
By age 4, Josie’s kidneys began to worsen. To avoid dialysis, Josie underwent a kidney transplant on her 5th birthday. Josie’s mom was the donor.
“I’m forever grateful that I could do for my child what she needed in a very extreme and unusual situation, and that I was allowed a second chance to give her the gift of life,” said Jean.
Today, Josie requires her feeding tube for medications and fluids, but all calories are taken in by mouth. Although Josie continues to achieve many things once thought impossible, her CP still causes severe spasticity in her legs, making it difficult to walk with a walker.
In June, Josie will undergo a selective dorsal rhizotomy that aims to get rid of the spasticity and improve mobility. During her 8-week recovery, Josie will have a demanding therapy schedule where she’ll relearn how to balance, crawl and walk with a walker. Then, in August, she’ll have a repeat dual heel chord lengthening surgery that requires casts on both legs for 8 weeks.
“Her health is proof of the power of prayer and a testament to the incredible team of medical professionals who have been a part of her life,” said Jean.