It began as an uneventful Monday when John Smith drove his 9-year-old daughter Esteria home from karate class. Moments later, he would be severely ill and unable to see or control his speech.
"I took my daughter to karate class and was there and right as class was winding up," said the Panama City father to WJHG. "I started feeling not myself. Not a headache, but not myself."
Esteria knew something was wrong, too, when he wasn’t “fussing” as usual.
"Then, we got to the car and he was mumbling when he told me where we was going [the hospital] and he was walking really fast," she said. "I was like, ‘What's happening?' So, we got in the car and he started driving, but he was driving crazy."
She continued: "He told me he couldn't see, and started panicking saying, 'I don't know what to eat, I don't know what to eat.' Then, he gave me his phone, but didn't tell me what to do. I didn't know if I needed to call the ambulance or what I needed to do."
That’s when she grabbed the wheel. From the backseat, Esteria drove eight blocks to the emergency room at Bay Medical.
"He was fighting with me and I couldn't make the turns that I needed to do," she said. "He was pushing the accelerator, and I was right here, [behind him in the backseat] reaching over him, driving with one hand. I hit a curve and we almost ran into the front of an ambulance!"
When they arrived at the ER, John could not see and his motor skills and memory were also poor. Then he lost consciousness.
Doctors found a stage four tumor the size of a golf ball on the left side of John’s brain. He was referred to a Birmingham hospital for treatment.
"She was still a trooper," said her mother, Tia Smith. "She was still by his bedside. It was not the best of conditions, another child would have probably panicked and continued to panic — she didn't. She gave me a report, told me what happened, and gave the nursing staff his health history that she did know."