Panama City- John Smith recounted what started as a normal Monday for him and his 9 year old daughter, Esteria Smith.
"I took my daughter to karate class and was there and right as class was winding up. I started feeling not myself. Not a headache, but not myself" he explained. Esteria said she also noticed something was off.
"I start thinking to myself, 'well what's wrong with him? He's not fussing. He's not telling me how to do this. He's not telling me how to do that' Esteria said laughing. "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. I was like, 'what's happening?' So, we got in the car and he started driving, but he was driving crazy!"
It wasn't long before the situation took a turn for the worst.
"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"' Esteria recalled. "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!"
But, she quickly figured it out. "I took over the whee!" she said with a proud smile.
Esteria took matters into her own hands at the busy intersection of 15th Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard in Panama City. She drove about eight blocks before arriving at Bay Medical's emergency room.
"He was fighting with me and I couldn't make the turns that I needed to do" she told us. "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!"
Nevertheless, the two made it to the hospital, and by that time, John had lost his vision, motor skills and memory, just before losing consciousness.
"She was still a trooper," Tia Smith, Esteria's mom said. "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."
Once in the ER, doctors discovered a golf ball sized, stage four tumor on the left side of John's brain. They explained to the Smith's that was the reason he lost control of his speech, memory and vision.
The smith's said they planned to go to a hospital in Birmingham to devise a treatment plan with doctors at UAB.
"You think you have a plan," John said with tears in his eyes, "and then they change. You realize what's not as important as you thought. Things that you took for granted- you no longer take for granted."
Tia said the experience, though traumatizing, has had a positive impact on the family. "God's in control. It's a journey. We're on a journey. It's a good journey. God doesn't set us up for failure."
Though the Smith's told us many times God was in control, they said they were thankful He let Esteria take the wheel for a while.