Fundraising concert planned for boy recovering from brain surgery

Special to The TribuneJanuary 15, 2013 

Jonah Rock poses with his dad, the Rev. Andy Rock.


Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong email address for the Rev. Andy Rock. Dr. Gary Mathern’s name was also misspelled.

Before Jonah Rock was born, he had already had a stroke. Son of Andy and April Rock, his mother could feel he had stopped moving. Jonah, now 7, has endured six to eight seizures a year, each one lasting hours.

Reverend Andy is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Grover Beach. He recounted the eight years of life with a special-needs child (Jonah will be 8 in May).

Jonah had a stroke in his left brain, incurring tremendous damage on that side. He was diagnosed with “status epilepticus,” needing ongoing medical intervention, or he would die.

The seizures were “like turning on and off a light switch or a computer that keeps crashing but tries to reboot,” said his dad. Jonah went on five different medications in six years, but he kept seizing.

It finally became clear that Jonah was a candidate for a hemispherectomy, where three-quarters of his left brain would be removed. The term “plasticity” refers to the brain’s ability to take over functions of the missing portion. Recovery is more robust in the young.

The surgery was performed Oct. 25 by Dr. Gary Mathern of UCLA. Jonah has had no seizures since and has improved cognitively. It took him a month at a Los Angeles children’s hospital to learn to walk again. He was in the ICU for 10 days and received physical therapy and water therapy.

The family is thankful for the incredible help they’ve received from Jack’s Helping Hand, churches in the Five Cities, and their own Presbyterian church.

Reverend Andy says that Jonah has “taught me about courage, patience, joy and humility. We began to understand and see the amazing gift that our weakness and fragility brought.”

“For me as a young man I tied my value to my performance. My son had no capability of performing. I learned a deep truth about how God has created us and that our worth is in not what we do. My worth and value is that I belong to God,” he expressed.

Reverend Andy said people want to be around Jonah. “Jonah doesn’t have an ego. Jonah is Jonah. He’ll come up and grab your hand and laugh and smile at you and hug you and you’ll melt.”

“My son has made a difference in more people’s lives than I have,” he continued. April Rock stays home with Jonah. “I couldn’t be without her. She is a great mom and wonderful wife.” Married 13 years, they have another son who's 5.

Music therapist Victoria Lowry is organizing a fundraiser concert for Jonah and the community. It will help the Rock family with the exorbitant rehabilitation funds and provide help to people in the community who have special needs.

She said that Reverend Andy is “a very special person.” He has the heart to be able to reach out to the community and invite people with special needs in. “Jonah is one of my special blessings,” she said.

The free concert is titled “Jonah’s Song” and will include performances by several of Lowry’s clients who have special needs. It is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 1830 Farroll Road. For more information, contact Reverend Andy at or go to

Gayle Cuddy’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at 489-1026 or

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