INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (WJW) — PJ Ross is your typical 11-year-old boy. His favorite class in school is math and loves hanging out with his friends.
But unlike most of his 5th grade classmates at Saint Michael Catholic School, PJ has spent the majority of his life in a hospital bed.
PJ’s parents, Bridget and Peter Ross, say that is a result of 23 surgeries to fix a rare disorder called craniosynostosis.
“We did a lot of testing and they said it would be a one and done and then he had multiple fusions of his skull. He had high cranial pressure in his head, so he had a lot of nausea, vomiting. He had a lot of eye surgeries and it kind of just became a snowball effect,” said Bridget Ross.
With each visit to University Hospitals, PJ became a collector of toys because the hospital staff always had a new one ready for him after surgery.
“Whether he was picking out a hot wheel because he made it through another lumbar puncture. To, let’s play the air hockey table, let’s paint, let’s color. It’s all that stuff when you can’t leave a room, that puts a smile on a child’s face,” said Bridget Ross.
Six years ago, the Ross family got the news they had always hoped to receive: PJ was finally healthy and allowed to come to Saint Michael’s as a student.
“When we were there, sometimes you thought you were never going to get out. There was a point in August of 2015 where I’m like, are we ever going to leave the hospital?” remembered Peter Ross.
However, PJ never forgot the time he spent in the hospital and wanted to give back.
So, for the past six years he has held a toy drive at his school every December, that is then donated to children that are patients at University Hospitals.
PJ’s goal each year is simple: collect as many toys as possible to help kids just like him.
“It’s heartwarming. It’s emotional. We are thankful. [UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital] did so much for us. It’s the least we can do to give back,” said Bridget Ross.