The Christmas tree stood in the living room of the Tarenton, Pa., home, lit with bright lights and decorated with colorful glass balls. George Pochon and his wife had decorated it alone while their five-year-old son, Jimmy, lay on a pile of pillows nearby. Jimmy smiled when he saw the finished tree, but he didn’t get out of his makeshift bed.
“Well, I won’t get out of bed today, Mummy, I’ll get out of bed tomorrow,” Jimmy said to his mother, according to an Associated Press report in December 1949.
His mother turned away from him so that Jimmy wouldn’t see the tears welling up in her eyes.
Jimmy had been good all year and he was hoping to have a merry Christmas with lots of gifts.
“I’ve been a good boy, so Santa’s going to see me before the other boys and girls,” Jimmy told the Associated Press writer.
And Jolly Old Saint Nick did. Santa paid a visit to Jimmy on Dec. 12, 1949, and brought Jimmy a dog.
“He sure did make a fuss over that dog,” George said. “That’s all he was asking for. He named him ‘Fluffy’ right off.”
However, the reason for Santa’s early visit was not because Jimmy had been so much better than the other children; the doctors had said Jimmy wouldn’t live to see Christmas.
Jimmy had been a normal five year old with blond hair and bright blue eyes until September. Then he fell ill and the doctors diagnosed him with cancer in his chest that had already destroyed part of one of his lungs.
The Pochons had taken their son to a hospital during the last week of November when Jimmy’s health worsened. The doctors were at a loss for what to do and so on December 9, the Pochons brought their young son home to die.
“There must be something, or someone somewhere who can save our boy,” George said to the Associated Press. “The Lord took our two other children from us I just know he won’t take Jimmy, too.” Jimmy’s siblings had died in childbirth.
However, if this was to be Jimmy’s final Christmas, the Town of Tarenton was determined to make it his best one. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Chapter threw him a huge Christmas party.
The Valley Daily News offered to pay for a trip to Chicago so Jimmy could be treated. A local union offered to pay for the treatment with an experimental betatron particle accelerator at University of Illinois.
Use of the betatron particle accelerator was limited to Illinois charity patients, though. So the governor of Pennsylvania sought to contact his counterpart in Illinois on behalf of the Pochons. The governor of Illinois was finally located in Washington D.C. He readily agreed to allow the Pochons access to the betatron machine.
The Pochons consulted with Dr. Andrew Ivy at the university and he had to give them the bad news.
“Dr. Ivy said the case is too far advanced – that the betatron treatment wouldn’t do any good. We don’t know what to do now. I suppose there will be another doctors’ consultation, but I know what the doctors will say – there’s no hope for Jimmy,” George Pochon said.
Unaware of the setback, Jimmy played happily with his toys and Fluffy while his life slowly slipped away.
Jimmy’s story had made national headlines, though. One of those stories was seen by a cancer specialist in New York City who offered to look at Jimmy. It was now less than two weeks before Christmas and Jimmy was expected to be dead within days. His parents could see him fading before their eyes.
The Pochons took the only hope available and went to New York where Jimmy was admitted to Cancer Memorial Hospital for treatment.
Christmas came and went and Jimmy was still alive. Then the new year came and Jimmy was still alive. After a month in the hospital, he left, greatly improved and with his cancer in remission. He continued to return for monthly treatments, but when Christmas 1950 came around, the now six-year-old Jimmy had to celebrate it on December 25, along with all the other healthy boys and girls.