Joshua Sajore, left, and his twin brother, Jacob, hang out last spring.

Joshua Sajore, left, and his twin brother, Jacob, hang out last spring.

Photo by Ethan Allen


Author — inspired by 3-year-old with hydrocephalus — pens adventures

By: Terry Oparka | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 15, 2019

 Joseph Gray, inspired by the Sajore family, wrote two children’s books, including this one, titled, “Jake and Josh in Cancelling Christmas.”

Joseph Gray, inspired by the Sajore family, wrote two children’s books, including this one, titled, “Jake and Josh in Cancelling Christmas.”

Image provided by Joseph Gray

STERLING HEIGHTS — Joseph Gray didn’t set out to write children’s books.

But when his friends Emily and James Sajore, of Sterling Heights, faced challenges after the birth of their twin sons, Joshua and Jacob, Gray felt compelled to write about them.

“I fell in love with the boys,” he said.

The boys, now 3 1/2,  were born 10 weeks early. Josh suffered a brain bleed, which caused hydrocephalus, a condition that causes fluid to build up in the brain. He also has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Gray said hydrocephalus is part of the books, but it’s not the sole focus.

“My goal was to write entertaining children’s stories that feature one character with hydrocephalus and bring some attention to the condition,” he said.

Gray said that, with a lot of therapy, Josh is walking and talking.

“It’s always encouraging to see them,” he said.

“They are such lively, fun little boys,” Gray said. “Meeting them, talking to them, really warmed my heart. I wanted to do something special about them.”

The result is two children’s books, titled “Jake and Josh in Canceling Christmas” and “Jake and Josh in The Blanket Rescue,” published by XLibris and available online  at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million.

Gray, 52, attended Oakland University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a major in journalism. He works as a copy editor for News Media Group.

“Jake and Josh in Canceling Christmas” introduces Jake and Josh, twin baby brothers about to experience their first Christmas. However, their parents are in a frenzy preparing for the holiday. Josh, who has hydrocephalus, knows his parents work hard to care for him. He wants to ease that burden, but how? He and Jake come up with a plan to cancel Christmas. In doing so, they both learn the true meaning of the holiday and withstand challenges that every child faces.

“Jake and Josh in The Blanket Rescue” picks up their story as they give up their toddler beds and Jake’s blanket accidentally gets donated to the church rummage sale. Jake and Josh call on their friends — Ella, Corrigan and Milo — to rescue the Little Blue Blanket. Their adventure challenges each child to face a fear and to learn what it means to truly feel safe.

Gray said he plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from the books to the Hydrocephalus Association.

“Hydrocephalus is very underfunded,” Gray said.

“They (Jake and Josh) each have their own copies of the books,” said Emily. “They think it’s super cool.”

She said that Josh received physical, occupational and speech therapy every day since he was released from the hospital, and therapy is now down to three days a week through the Macomb Intermediate School District.

Josh has shunts to drain the fluid, which Emily said have a 50% failure rate in the first two years and an 80% failure rate after two years. Last summer, Josh needed three brain surgeries within two weeks at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit for shunt failure.

Since their family is able to pay for supplemental insurance that helps to cover the costs of Josh’s therapies, Emily said that the money raised at fundraisers for Josh is donated to the Hydrocephalus Research Center in Detroit.

She said that Josh was given the last rites just after he was born.

“They said he would be deaf and blind, never walk or speak, and have a low IQ. He has an above-average IQ, walks with a limp and doesn’t have full use of his right arm,” Emily, a mental health therapist, said.  “But he finds a way to do everything Jacob can do.”

Her advice to families facing similar challenges is “not to let anyone tell you what your child will be.” She noted that Jake knows that Josh’s challenges alter their family dynamic. “He understands,” she said.

She said that an MRI of Josh’s brain when he was born indicated severe brain damage.

But she and their family did not accept that Josh should be taken off life support, and they called in a pediatric neurosurgeon, who came to them from another hospital.

“You get out of your children what you put into them. I never for a moment thought we couldn’t figure it out.” She credits the early intervention therapies Josh had for the progress he has made and continues to make.

She explained that hydrocephalus occurs in one in every 500 births.

“He knows he has a shunt,” Emily said.  “We make sure he knows. But we don’t treat him any different. We don’t shelter him. We don’t coddle him. We help him.”

Josh has had swimming lessons and played soccer.

“He figures it out,” Emily, who is pregnant with their third child, said.

Follow Gray on Twitter at @Author_Gray.