In February, 11-year-old Jonah Barnett was escorted during his graduation ceremony at Flint Hill Elementary School by his brother, Austin, who attends Eastside High School. Jonah died Friday at his Covington home after fighting an inoperable brain tumor for about 10 years. (Special Photo)
COVINGTON – The 11-year-old boy whose dream to go to middle school was fulfilled last spring died Friday evening at his Covington home after fighting an inoperable brain tumor for about 10 years.
Jonah Barnett was diagnosed with the tumor when he was 13 months old and only given a month to live. After going through many ups and downs over the past 10 years, the tumor recently began growing again.
“To many, Jonah did not lead a ‘normal’ life. He couldn’t talk like others. Jonah had physical limitations. He sometimes had to stay home because of the medication that he took,” said his dad Patrick in a statement on his CaringBridge and Facebook pages on Saturday.
Jonah endured radiation treatment beginning at 2 years of age, and he also had part of his skull removed. Part of his tongue, face and body also were paralyzed.
“There was not a single part of Jonah’s life that was not compromised because of his brain tumor,” Patrick said. “Thankfully, the people in Jonah’s life did not focus on what he could not do but rather what he could do. Jonah’s presence usually brought smiles upon those who were around him.”
Last August, Jonah was given six to 12 months to live, and recently, the Barnett family traveled to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for more tests and consultations and had to adjust medications.
“In over 20 years and hundreds of patients diagnosed with a pontine brain stem glioma, (Jonah’s doctor) has only seen five patients survive five years or longer,” Patrick said recently.
The family supported St. Jude’s, where they traveled often for treatments, during his fight and helped with fundraisers. Jonah also loved to collect post cards from people who mailed them to him from all over the world.
Jonah was able to graduate from Flint Hill Elementary School early to attend Cousins Middle School in February – his dream was to attend middle school and have a locker. He attended school some and also took home school classes.
“Jonah exhibited an attitude that did not dwell in things he could not do but rather capitalized and enjoyed the things that he could do. He was an exceptional child and even though we didn’t get to know him like his friends in the elementary school, we could tell that he was truly a remarkable person. He will be missed by those who knew him well, as well as by those of us who only got to know him for a brief period of time,” said Cousins Principal Scott Sauls in an email to staff. “Many will say that he lost his battle with cancer. I choose to say that he won the battle because I know he now is the beneficiary of something greater than any of us can imagine. He is rid of that disease and now lives a life free from pain and suffering – and he so much deserves that.”
Sauls suggested that the school family wear bright colors the whole week to celebrate Jonah’s life. Those who have “Fight like Jonah” T-shirts are asked to wear them Friday.
“Let’s approach this week remembering the life of a special little boy who brought so much happiness to those who knew him,” Sauls said.
In April, Jonah was the honorary grand marshal for the Newton County Special Olympics parade. He also has been honored by several other groups across the state.
His funeral service was held Monday, but a memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at High Point Baptist Church in Covington, where he was a member.
Jonah was the son of Patrick and Lynice Barnett; his siblings are Austin, Carson and Anna.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.