GODLEY, Texas -- Nine-month-old Owen Turner has a crooked smile. Strokes will do that.
But Owen's stroke likely saved his life.
"We assumed he was just teething,” said his father, Joseph Turner. “Then, whenever his right side quit working, we knew something wasn't right. We took off for the emergency room."
There was no reason to suspect what was coming.
Owen just had a low fever and some strange little bumps on his head. They had set a doctor’s appointment for the next day just to be careful, but didn’t get a chance to keep it.
The emergency room in Cleburne immediately had Owen flown to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth. The stroke, it turns out, was a sign of a rare form of leukemia in infants.
“Owen has AML. It’s a pretty aggressive kind of leukemia,” said mom, Allison Turner.
"Told us it was one in a million kids his age," Joseph said. “There were so many white blood cells in his blood, they say his blood was like honey.”
A cancer so aggressive, doctors told Allison and Joseph Turner they were already down to hours.
"Our oncologist said if we waited any longer to bring him in, he would have gone into cardiac arrest at home,” Allison said. “Never made it to the ER."
That was Jan. 12, a Sunday.
In the tiny Johnson County town of Godley, word spread so fast, the Turners say worshipers at the Baptist and Methodist Churches interrupted service for urgent prayers. Joseph and Allison attend both churches on alternating Sundays. And they teach school in Godley.
"I do high school football, junior high basketball, and track," Joseph said.
"I teach third grade,” Allison added. “That's where I grew up."
Allison's hometown never left her either.
Students in every grade have joined Owen's fight, filling coin jars for Owen and for leukemia research. They’ve made and sold out three printings of t-shirts, donating funds to the Turners. The Godley High girls’ basketball team wore them for warm ups before their tournament game in Weatherford Wednesday night. A lot of people in the stands wore them, too.
It seems the whole town is on Owen Turner's team.
"They realize it's not just about them,” said Godley parent Tonna James at Wednesday’s game. “It's about others and helping others. That's what we're here for."
A lesson to be sure, but Owen's mom and dad say they're not the teachers now.
"He is,” they said, holding their child, and making sure not to obstruct a plastic tube connecting Owen to the bag of chemo that is helping him beat the cancer. "We're just along for the ride. We're just blessed that we get to be along on this ride with him."
Cook's will be their home for the next six months or more. Allison hasn’t been back home since they arrived. Joseph spends most nights on a chair in Owen’s room.
Donations and prayers from folks in their town hold them up. And the only way they can pay it all back is to teach their children -- maybe next school year.
They hope to leave the hospital in July with a healthy little boy.
"We'll be paying it forward for the rest of our lives,” Allison Turner said, “and not come close to giving what we've received."
The greatest gift they've received just might be that crooked smile.
A fund for Owen Turner has been established at Wells Fargo Bank.