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Teen defies odds, reunites with doctor 18 years later

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A very special reunion happened at Wolfson Children's Hospital Friday, after a young man who was once a critically ill baby, and could have died the day he was born, was reunited with one of the doctors who saved him nearly two decades later.

There is a tiny Polaroid picture that may look like any other baby photo, but Lisa Russell said it's far from that. For her it is the first picture of her son, James Russell, taken 18 years ago, moments after he was born at University Hospital, which is now known as UF Health Jacksonville, at a time when doctors said James Russell's outlook wasn't good.


"He had a brain injury from birth, and he had something called shoulder dystosia, where his shoulder got stuck and they couldn't get him out," Lisa Russell said.

But doctors were able to deliver her son and a doctor gave Lisa Russell the picture of her baby as they rushed him to another hospital for emergency treatment, thinking that he may not survive.

"The prognosis was really poor. He had his eyes rolled in the back of his head and was seizing. He didn't look good at all," Lisa Russell said.

But his family said that James Russell was a fighter and he made it, 18 years to date and still going strong.

"I'm gonna do it all! No one is going to stop me!" James Russell exclaimed.

With a special wheelchair, James Russell goes everywhere. He's an athlete and loves playing power soccer and just recently graduated from Fletcher High School, where his classmates voted him homecoming king.

"He's a great kid! I couldn't ask for anything better," Lisa Russell (pictured below) said.


But James Russell's story all started with that simple picture that has always been so special to his family though the family hasn't seen the man who took it since James Russell was born.

That is until recently.

James Russell's current pediatrician, Dr. Laura Beverly, recently ran into a group of people who knew Dr. Thomas Chiu, the neonatologist who gave the picture to James Russell's mother when his future was so bleak.

"So I told Dr. Beverly, I said I would love to meet with James because it's been 18 years and this is truly a very amazing story," Chiu said.

And that meeting took place Friday where Chiu (pictured below) and James Russell were finally reunited at Wolfson Children's Hospital.


News4Jax's Vic Micolucci was there when that reunion took place and described it as nothing short of amazing.

"So, would you say that James is beating the odds?" asked Micolucci.

"Definitely, definitely James," Chiu said. "I'm very, very proud of him."

Chiu said he was so happy to see that that little baby has grown into a great young man and James, he was thrilled to meet the man that went above and beyond the day he was born.

"The man that saved the day! Doctor Chiu!" James Russell exclaimed. "It is very special to meet Doctor Chiu after 18 years! I'm so honored to be where I am today. I came so far with the great people I have in my life."

According to doctors and his family James Russell continues to defy the odds. His mother said he's hard to keep up with. He's always out socializing, goes to the gym and just the other day rode his bicycle 12 miles.