Meet Just Jude The Super Dude at the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay
on September 29.



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Meet Just Jude the Super Dude

Jude Sanford, Age 8, from West Akron, Ohio

Why Jude is an #ACHero: After suffering a stroke in utero, Jude wasn’t expected to ever walk, talk, see or hear. With a long list of medical impairments and an even longer road to achieving milestones, Jude has overcome incredible odds thanks to his hard work and support from his care team.

Sidekicks: Jane, his sister, Dr. Aaron Garrison and Mabel, his dog

Super power: Smashing expectations. All the developmental milestones that were once “NO WAY” possible are now a reality thanks to his hard work and support of family, doctors, therapists and teachers.

When he’s not busy overcoming obstacles: Jude is funny, loves to dance and wear superhero costumes. He doesn’t take much of a break from therapy because he’s achieved so much with its help – from taking his first steps to tying his shoes.

Did you know fact: Jude loves cheeseburgers, especially from McDonald’s. He’s such a regular at his local McDonald’s, the store threw him a surprise birthday party where he got to help the crew take orders on the register and make cheeseburgers.

Jude’s story: Jude is a superhero chameleon. Today, he’s Chewbacca. Last month, he was Spiderman, but regardless of the costume he wears, his everyday identity is “Just Jude the Super Dude” who has crushed medical diagnoses and expectations since birth.

Jude’s first personal milestone was finding a loving family. After a few months in foster care, Jude made his way home through domestic adoption.

“We had already adopted Jane, his sister, so we thought we knew what to expect. But, when I held Jude in my arms, I instantly knew he needed medical help,” said Sarah Sanford, Jude’s mom. “He came home in March and by summer we had him at Akron Children’s for an infant therapy team evaluation that turned up a list of things he needed.”

Jude began his medical journey with physical and occupational therapy and support from Help Me Grow before being referred to the craniofacial department.

Dr. Ananth Murthy diagnosed him with torticollis, a twisted neck, and severe plagiocephaly, flat head syndrome. He was fitted with an Ohio State football-inspired helmet for nearly a year to reshape his head and earned buckeye stickers for each milestone he met.

At 9 months old, Jude was evaluated by Akron’s developmental and behavioral pediatrics team. After a number of tests, doctors discovered he had suffered a stroke in utero that resulted in cerebral palsy, hemiparesis (weakness on one side of his body), epilepsy and considerable developmental delays.

Jude had minimal muscle tone in some areas of his body and heightened muscle tone in others like his toes, which were curled under his feet. In addition to muscle spasticity issues, Jude was diagnosed with cortical visual impairment (CVI), sensory processing disorder and dysphagia, a swallowing disorder.

Jude’s therapy team fitted him for ankle foot orthoses, a gait trainer and a comprehensive care plan.

“His medical and therapy team devised a plan that would enable him to meet every milestone,” said Sarah. “He moved at his own pace but kept working…the goal wasn’t to come close, rather it was to achieve each and every one (milestones).”

For the next several years, Jude spent 15 hours a week in supportive therapies, in-and-outside of the hospital, to close developmental gaps. He had physical and occupational therapy to build strength and flexibility, and to improve his gross and fine motor skills.

He needed sensory-based, neurological therapies to train the way his eyes got messages to his brain. He also benefited from Akron’s feeding program, speech therapy, asthma treatment, as well as undergoing 3 ear tube surgeries to help him with drainage and hearing.

Jude’s development was a long, slow haul, but he did it. He started talking at 2, walking at 3 and ‘graduated’ from vision therapy with a CVI score of 8 out of 10 before kindergarten.

Through it all, Jude was also suffering from severe constipation. After many attempts to fix the problem with medicine and care protocols, his bowel management problems magnified.

“Because Jude’s colon didn’t develop correctly and doesn’t function properly, he’s needed several surgeries to help. Dr. Garrison is our GI guy,” said Sarah. “He’s absolutely awesome and Jude feels right at home with him…we call Dr. G the bowel magician!”

Today, Jude follows a very strict morning and nightly regimen of medications and tube and bowel maintenance, as well as follow-ups with gastroenterology and adjusted treatment plans as needed. He also continues with occasional therapies and works hard at school with help from a full-time aide.

“Akron Children’s has been with Jude since the beginning and remains his trusted home away from home,” said Sarah. “Each of Jude’s doctors, therapists, social workers – the whole team – are truly committed to him. They are committed to his progress, not his diagnoses or even the prognosis.”


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