Whenever 10-year-old Eli Boley thinks of the word miracle, he usually thinks of another word — blessing. 

A 4-year-old Eli Boley undergoes a post-surgical EEG at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Eli, who is now 10, has been named a Miracle Child by Children’s Miracle Network. Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“What happened to me, that was a miracle, because I was going through something really tough,” Eli said. “I had hope, and God provided a miracle. A miracle is something good.”

That really tough experience the Buford youth refers to started in 2017 when he was just 4 years old. Eli began having acute seizures that escalated so quickly he was admitted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta three times in a span of two months. Following a series of tests and MRIs, doctors found a walnut-sized lesion in front of Eli’s motor cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for voluntary movement in the body, and Eli was diagnosed with focal cortical dysplasia, a mis-wiring of the brain that causes electrical imbalance and seizures.

The first line of treatment for FCD is typically antiseizure medication, but after trying four different medications, Eli’s seizures were found to be drug resistant. Surgery to remove the lesion was the next step, though success rates are only 50 to 60%.

“Eli spent months in the hospital, receiving a meticulously constructed series of medications to manage the seizures while his physicians collaborated with the surgical team to determine if Eli would make a good candidate,” said Sarah Boley, Eli’s mother. “We were scared to death, but throughout the whole process, we never felt alone.”

Eli Boley hugs his doctor, Dr. Joshua Chern, following a successful craniotomy. Eli underwent surgery when he was 4 and now, at age 10, he is seizure free. Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

In April 2018, Dr. Joshua Chern, division chief of neurosurgery at Children’s, performed a craniotomy to remove the lesion on Eli’s brain.

“Surgery was delicate because the lesion was in the part of the brain that controlled his left arm and leg,” Chern said. “Disturbing healthy tissue, while trying to remove the lesion, could cause left arm and leg weakness. We are fortunate that at Children’s, we have tools like intraoperative mapping, that helps us to distinguish between healthy tissue and the areas we need to remove, which could be difficult to discern to the naked eye, and intraoperative MRI to ensure all of the diseased tissue is cleanly removed.” 

After surgery, Eli started intense physical and occupational therapies at Children’s to re-learn to walk and strengthen the areas of his body weakened by the seizures. 

Today, Eli is free of seizures and he only sees Chern for annual checkups. He currently plays baseball — outfield and third base — and plans to start a private league for wrestling and play football. Eli is also an honor roll student at Patrick Elementary School in Buford.

“It’s crazy, the fact, what I have suffered through,” Eli said, “and today I’m running around with my head up, the left side of my body, running, catching a ball, hitting a ball.”  

Today, Eli Boley is free of seizures and he only sees Chern for annual checkups. He plays baseball and football and wrestles. Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

In honor of his perseverance and bravery, Eli has been named a 2024 Miracle Child by Children’s Miracle Network, which raises funds to support more than 170 children’s hospitals, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. As an ambassador for CMN, Eli shares his story in an effort to generate awareness and encourage support for CHM and the children who benefit from its work — all funds raised locally through CMN Hospitals go to providing high-quality pediatric care to Georgia’s kids.

“When you look at the scope and your opportunity to share your experience and provide some element of encouragement, (you hope) to support the families the way we were supported,” Sarah said. “You get to give back. You get to leverage your time and your story for a bigger outcome.” 

“As a Miracle Child, there are a lot of fun things you do (but) I’ve realized it’s not really about that,” Eli said. “It’s about raising money for children who are in the hospital with things like cancer. Whenever I go and do a fundraiser for Children’s, I feel like I’m helping out a lot and I’m making a difference.” 

In making a difference, Eli is a blessing to those seeking their own miracle. 

Sarah and Eli share more about Eli’s story in a video here. The video is courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

FEATURED PHOTO: Eli Boley, 10, is pictured with Dr. Joshua Chern, division chief of neurosurgery at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Chern performed a successful craniotomy on Eli when he was 4. Eli is now seizure-free and has been named a Miracle Child by Children’s Miracle Network. Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. 

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Deanna Allen has served as editor of the North Gwinnett Voice since June 2021. Effective communication and creative design are her passions.

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