Just over one year ago, The Avett Brothers’ bassist Bob Crawford got off the plane from a European tour and found out that his not-quite-2-year-old daughter Hallie had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The original prognosis was that there was no chance she’d recover from it. Crawford and his wife Melanie took Hallie to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where they found hope and Hallie received her care.
Bob and Melanie are now taking part in a St. Jude Give Thanks Walk in Raleigh, N.C., and we talked to Bob about the Hallie’s recovery and how anyone can help.
Paste: I was so glad to hear that Hallie is out of chemo and that she’s starting preschool. How’s she doing?
Crawford: She’s doing really well. In fact I was just hanging in one of her speech therapy sessions and she’s doing miraculous. Working with an iPad app and learning more words and identifying things. She lost a great deal of the right side of her brain—the tumor was a quarter of the size of her brain, from the upper right side—and they took it out, and they took other things out with it. And then she had strokes in her brain so she really had a terrible prognosis and we were told things like, she’d never sit up, a trach and feeding tube for the rest of her life—if she lived. And she has beaten all the odds so far. I mean, the cancer’s still—it’s a terrible, terrible cancer she has, but as of today there’s no tumor and we just pray that it never comes back again, but she’s really making miraculous progress under steep odds.
Paste: That’s amazing. That’s so great to hear. A few years back my pastor and good friend found out his daughter had leukemia and just seeing him go through all that, I can only imagine. Just even the little health problems my daughter had to deal with when she was a baby—that feeling of helplessness is just so overwhelming when you’re a parent. I can only imagine what you were going through.
Crawford: Well, yeah, it’s a terrible thing. I’ll tell you, me—my wife and I—found our faith through his experience, and we found the Lord and prayer and all that, and we really believe miracles have been worked through Hallie at this point. You really find out what you believe and what you don’t believe when you face something like this, and we figured out some of that ourselves.
Paste: Throughout this process, how important were your bandmates to sort of get through all of this last year and a half?
Crawford: I can’t even quantify how important those guys have been. I mean, from the earliest days. We were on a plane coming back from Europe when my wife found my daughter having a seizure. And so, when I landed, our manager was waiting for me to take me to the hospital, and it was three hours away. We landed in Charlotte. I had to go to Chapel Hill, and Scott, who had been gone from his family for a month, walked off that plane and got in the car with me and went to Chapel Hill, and he was with me all day and late into the night, then Joe Kwon spent the night with me. I’ll never forget this—I slept in a little room, and I slept on the floor and Joe slept on a chair. And pretty much every day, until those guys had to play shows again, one of them at least was at the hospital at all times. So I mean, we’d been together for 10 years at that point, and I knew that we were all close and we were business partners and we were good friends, you know, but the level—it was always a deep relationship, and a tight relationship, but this kind of solidified the family that we all are. And it’s kind of like forging something, you know? We’ve all been welded together, you know? It’s been amazing, and I learned from them how you serve someone when they’re in pain, how you serve someone when they’re in need. And I think back to how people served us and that’s kind of the definition of taking care of your friends and family and anyone in need. Those guys, and so many others, really exemplified that for my wife and I.
Paste: Are you back full time with the band now?
Crawford: Yeah, I came back full time in August. And Hallie’s next MRI scans are in January and as long as Hallie is doing well, I’m gonna stay and play as many shows as possible.
Paste: What advice would you give to parents who get news like you got off that plane from Europe?
Crawford: I would say pray. Learn to live one hour at a time. Stick together. Have faith, always believe. In fact, I just was at the doctor, and I told the nurse my story about Hallie, and she said, “Love hard.” I gotta say that that would be my advice.
Paste: Can you tell me a little bit about the walk and why you’re doing this walk for St. Jude?
Crawford: It’s the St. Jude Give thanks. Walk, taking place in Raleigh on Nov. 17. They do it in a number of cities across the country. We’re participating in Raleigh, and it’s something that my wife got us involved in. It’s a chance for cancer patients and their friends to show strength and unity and raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital out of Memphis, Tenn., which is where Hallie has received all of her treatment. And, let me say, where we received our hope because we left UNC Chapel Hill with little hope and St. Judes gave us hope back. I know St. Jude Hospital. We’ve spent a lot of time there—we live there—we know how they use their money. We’ve seen it and I can vouch for it.
Paste: So what does the walk entail? What are you gonna be doing?
Crawford: I think people just all show up and they walk. And they walk for the mile or whatever it is that’s required. I think the central reason is just to gather people that are suffering, fighting cancer and that have fought cancer, and that have maybe survivors family, the families of survivors and to bring them all together and to raise money for St. Jude.
Paste: And how can people help?
Crawford: Here’s the link to the donation page. And then you can join the team—if you’re in the Raleigh area you can be part of the walk yourself. You can come and walk and join a team or start a team and raise money and walk.