In April of 2014, little 8 year old Joey Fabus started complaining about having double vision. After visits to an eye doctor and an eye specialist, an MRI was scheduled to rule out any serious neurological problems. Joey’s parents, David and Cindy Fabus, and the doctors were hoping that Joey had a lazy eye that could be easily repaired with surgery.
On May 15, 2014 an MRI was done. David, Cindy and Joey left the MRI center hoping to get results within a few days. When a call came in from a doctor at 5:00 that afternoon, they knew something was seriously wrong.
Little Joey had an inoperable brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). It was further explained that there isn’t a cure for DIPG and that Joey had between 9 and 12 months to live. They previously lost a 15 month old daughter Hannah to complications of a kidney disease. How, they wondered, could this be happening again? Their world was turned upside down. They were sent on the inevitable emotional roller coaster that all parents of children with cancer are forced into.
Joey had radiation treatments to try to shrink the tumor and was placed in a vaccine study with the hope that it would possibly slow the tumor growth. Joey developed excess fluid on the brain that started affecting his life style. Surgery was performed to insert a Shunt that would allow the fluid to drain. Within two months Joey developed a serious infection that almost took his life and the Shunt needed to be removed. He was placed on a high dose of antibiotics to help fight the infection. He was also placed on steroids. Unfortunately, the effects of the steroids are very harsh, especially to a young child. The steroids caused serious weight gain, loss of muscle strength, a ferocious appetite, and personality changes. His frail body couldn’t handle the steroids anymore so they removed him from the vaccine study and steroids in order to try another drug hoping to improve his quality of life for the time he had remaining.
Throughout his journey, Joey had been in and out of the hospital for several medical complications, including surgery to place a shunt in his brain and an infection that needed medical attention. Joey was required to see his doctors at least every three weeks. He endured numerous MRI's to evaluate the DIPG tumor and a number of needles to test his blood.
Joey’s lifelong dream was to be a police officer. On June 24, 2014, with the help of a wonderful officer and dear friend of Joey’s, Tom Rigatti, Joey was officially sworn in by Judge Ronald Arnoni and became the youngest Bethel Park Police Officer known. The City of Pittsburgh named August 29th as “Joey Fabus Day” and the community of Bethel Park announced its own “Joey Fabus Day” on June 24th!
Since he was born, Joey was always so very happy. He constantly had a smile on his face and was truly kind and polite to everybody he met. Throughout it all, despite his medical treatments and the horrible effects of steroids, Joey continued to smile.
Unfortunately, on January 21, 2015, at the age of 8 years old and with his family by his side, Joey passed away, joining his sister, Hannah, who was undoubtedly waiting for him with open arms.