20 year old Josh Holdner has Tyrosinemia Type 1, a rare liver disease. His body does not possess the enzyme needed to break down protein, and therefore he cannot eat it. Instead, he takes a pill containing 12 grams of protein each day.
Josh is treated at Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center, a North Carolina Children’s Miracle Network hospital. Through Children’s Miracle Network, Josh became a miracle child for Elonthon.
Josh has been working with Elon for 12 years and is now on the executive board. His family said that Josh talks about the event all year, and on the way home, he always says: “I can’t wait for next year.”
“When Josh is here, he's in his element,” Mike Holdner said. “He is with family. He feels like he belongs somewhere. He feels like he has a purpose, and so this does wonders for Josh emotionally, spiritually and physically.”
“I think it's an important event for the miracle children, especially because it kind of gives them a little time to be quote-on-quote normal or try to be normal and not have to kind of deal with doctors and hospitals,” Josh Holdner said.
When Josh was just a year old, his mother Teri Holdner said doctors told her she was crazy for thinking something was wrong with her son, until she took him to Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center.
“If it wasn’t for Duke, Josh wouldn’t be here,” Teri Holdner said.
Danielle Holdner, Josh’s sister, was three years old when Josh got sick. She said she remembers going to the pediatrician knowing something was wrong because Josh would never stop crying.
“I remember that moment when we went to Duke, and it felt, really different,” Danielle Holdner said. “You know, we weren't going there every single day, which was a change after a while, and you know, I felt like my family became happy again.”
Both Josh and his family said their favorite memory from Elonthon was interacting with Leigha Martinelli, another Elon miracle child who died this January. Josh and Leigha knew each other for 15 years.
“They just clicked right from the start,” Mike Holdner said. “It was, it was magical. It was great to see.”
On his journey with Children’s Miracle Network, Josh said Martinelli is one of the most important parts.
“She just tried to be positive 100% of time, and I've just tried to live up to what she wanted to live up to as well,” Josh Holdner said.
However, Leigha was just one part of his large support system.
“If it wasn't for my parents and my family, I wouldn't be here today,” Josh Holdner said. “They fought so hard for me at the time of my diagnosis. Duke wasn't taking patients outside of Durham County, and we live in Wake County. So, we got on the phone with Duke, and we just begged and begged and begged and then they finally let us go.”
Josh is currently in his second year at Wake Technical Community College and hopes to transfer to a four year university in the next year. He is majoring in communications and wants to work for Children’s Miracle Network.