Following Internet Campaign, Experimental Drug Saves 8-Year-Old Boy

Following Internet Campaign, Experimental Drug Saves 8-Year-Old Boy
Josh Hardy
Courtesy Hardy family

updated 05/08/2014 at 06:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/08/2014 04:55PM

For his 8th birthday, Josh Hardy got his life back.

Following a successful Internet campaign by Josh's family and supporters that attracted nearly 30,000 supporters, pharmaceutical company Chemerix on March 12 added Josh to a closed clinical trial for its antiviral drug brincidofovir.

Josh needed the drug to defeat a deadly adenovirus that developed in the wake of his cancer treatment and a bone marrow transplant. He was potentially weeks from death, his mother, Aimee Hardy, tells PEOPLE.

Since the victory, "the drug worked beautifully, and killed the adenovirus within three weeks," Hardy says. "It saved his life and did exactly what it needed to do."

The successful battle also gave hope and inspiration to other families trying to access potentially life-saving drugs that are months or years away from FDA approval.

"We created a policy debate and there's a lot of people reaching out to me," says Hardy, who would like to get more involved as an advocate for pediatric cancer patients once Josh's long journey to health is complete.

Josh turned 8 on March 31, and on April 10, he was discharged from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Following Internet Campaign, Experimental Drug Saves 8-Year-Old Boy| Health, Real People Stories

Josh Hardy with his three brothers and mother Aimee

Courtesy Hardy family

The evening before his discharge, Josh got a special treat from the Memphis Grizzlies. Josh was brought to the team's game against the Miami Heat, showered with gifts and given courtside seats and a suite. Player Quincy Pondexter presented a basketball signed by the team. “This young fellow right here is a warrior,” Pondexter said, according to CBS affiliate WREG in Memphis.

Although he was discharged, Josh is still working to get his strength back. He returns to the hospital every day for physical therapy, blood transfusions, dialysis and other treatment and then goes home to an apartment that the family rents in Memphis. Hardy says they expect to complete outpatient care this summer and return home to Virginia.

"He is making progress every day," Hardy says.

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