Cash, Lee’s son with wife Jennifer Birmingham Lee, suffered a stroke when he was just 3 years old that led to frequent trips to the hospital and consultations with doctors as they searched for a cause. The family had to quickly learn how to navigate the medical system after Cash was initially misdiagnosed.
His first doctors believed Cash had central nervous system vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, and decided to treat it with 11-hour sessions of chemotherapy, two times a month. But 7 months later, the toddler had a second stroke. His doctors then wanted to up Cash’s chemotherapy sessions, but Lee’s instinct led the family to seek a second opinion.
“‘This is not the life we’re gonna give our kid,’ ” Lee, 48, recalled telling the doctors in this exclusive clip from Friday’s episode of The Doctors.
The scared parents then met with a neurosurgeon who diagnosed Cash with moyamoya disease, a rare blood disorder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, moyamoya disease, the cause of which is unknown, is an uncommon blood vessel disorder where the carotid artery becomes blocked or narrowed, resulting in a loss of blood flow to the brain. Common complications of moyamoya include vision impairment, trouble speaking and moving, developmental issues and seizures.
It also meant that Cash needed an immediate double brain surgery to open up his narrowed blood vessels. But that, finally, worked. Now 6 years old, Cash leads a normal, healthy life.
Lee said his son’s health scare took an emotional toll on the entire family.
“A situation like this literally affects every crevice and crack of your livelihoods, of your relationships,” the actor said, tearing up.
The couple, who tied the knot in October 2010, said their strong bond helped them through the darkest moments as they searched for a true diagnosis for their son. Lee said his wife always stayed positive, assuring him that Cash was “just gonna make it.”
“And because we had each other … we literally just put on our armor and shield, and we were like, ‘We’re going,’ ” he said.
After taping The Doctors episode, the Hawaii Five-0 alum shared a group photo on Twitter, holding Cash alongside his wife and co-hosts Travis Stork, Andrew Ordon and Judy Ho.
Thank you @TheDoctors for sharing our family’s story, my son’s warrior spirit and bringing awareness to #Moyamoya. Airing this Friday 11/22 on @thedoctors ... check their website for local listings https://t.co/cGKjYHJF0v pic.twitter.com/oLCW5yekeV— Will Yun Lee (@WillYunLee) November 20, 2019
“Thank you @TheDoctors for sharing our family’s story, my son’s warrior spirit and bringing awareness to #Moyamoya,” he wrote.
Because the disorder goes mostly undiagnosed, the couple now raises awareness for moyamoya, and stress that people need to be an advocate for their health if they think something is off. They urge others to speak up, ask questions and look for a second opinion when necessary.
The Doctors episode airs Friday, check your local listings.