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photo of Joseph Turner.

TRINITY — At nearly 3 years old, Joseph Turner spends more time each week at doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions than he does in play groups.

On Christmas Day, Santa had to make a special trip to the Brenner Children’s Hospital to visit Joseph, who was recovering from lung surgery.

In 2002, Joseph had heart surgery, and he recently received a diagnosis of autism. Because of his medical conditions, he has had to relearn the basics.

Speech therapists are teaching him to talk; physical therapists are teaching him to play and walk.

In the Turners’ Trinity home, Joseph always passed by his toys and colored blocks showing no interest.

But one afternoon, Joseph sat down near the blocks and began lining them up and playing with them.

“If they do something so simple, it means so much,” said Tara Turner, Joseph’s mother.

In April 2002, Joseph had surgery for his heart condition — an atrioventricular canal defect. Because he was so small, only 3 months old, doctors had to make a heart valve especially for him.

He will have another heart surgery to replace the valve when he is older, Turner said.

In March 2002, Turner’s mother and father, Kenneth and Teresa Brown, and the Uwharrie Baptist Church held a hotdog benefit. Local businesses donated food and supplies. The community raised about $2,500 for Joseph’s surgery.

She said the family also received letters and cards of encouragement and prayers. Turner said she has made a book out of the cards and plans to show it to Joseph when he is older.

“I was so surprised that so many people you don’t know would help you out,” Turner said.

In July, doctors said Joseph has autism. Turner said she has cut back to working 16 hours a week so she can take him to appointments about four times a week.

During the past month, Joseph spent about two weeks at High Point Regional Hospital and at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center being treated for pneumonia and infections in his lungs.

But despite all of the trips to the hospital and medical appointments, Joseph is a happy child, Turner said.

She said her family doesn’t see the experience as a setback, but as a blessing that has made them stronger and brings them closer .

“You take every day, enjoy it and value it,” Turner said.

Contact Sue Schultz at 883-4422, Ext. 232, or sschultz@news-record.com

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