A young boy living with a rare childhood condition returned to Dallas for treatment this weekend and attended the Cowboys preseason home game as a special guest.
At just eight years old, Gavin Miller of Charlotte, Michigan has overcome more medical hurdles than most children his age. When he was about 4 1/2 years old, the now-third grader wanted to play hockey. His parents enrolled him in skating classes.
"He kept falling down a lot and complaining of knee pain," his mother Karen Miller said. "We were just like, 'Get back out there, buddy. You can do it,' you know?"
The pain progressed. After countless doctors visits, what was initially suspected as a muscle strain was a diagnosis of Perthes disease.
Dr. Harry Kim with Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas said every year, there are only five or six cases per 100,000 children.
"The hip bone is made of ball and socket, and it's the ball that loses its blood flow. We don't know what causes it. We don't think it's genetic, but for some reason, some children get it," Kim said. "When it does, the bone degenerates. The ball part degenerates and rather it being round, it becomes flattened like a mushroom or even a pancake."
Kim said this can lead to joint degeneration, arthritis, pain, a loss of motion and stiffness. Last August, Gavin underwent surgery to allow more joint movement. Monday, X-rays should determine his bone growth in the past year and whether he could return to participating in some of his favorite sports.
Miracle Flights, which provides children and their families free flights to distant and specialized care, has flown Gavin and his mother to see his doctors.
However, this weekend proved to be a particularly special one after he was able to see his "hometown hero" Cooper Rush with the Dallas Cowboys play in the team's first preseason home game. Rush is also a native of Charlotte, Michigan and has followed Miller's medical journey.
"For me, it's just awesome to see how he handles it all. This guy has been through it all, tough as they come," Rush said. "Everyone needs perspective in life and he gives me a lot of it, so it's been really good, someone you just always have in the back of your mind you think about when things are tough. Gavin's been tougher than all of us."
Gavin's mother said they only discovered they were neighbors with Rush's family when she first began fundraising efforts to help with medical treatments and travel.
The families have grown closer as her little boy's medical journey continues.