Cancer-stricken two-year-old boy Joey Potter replies to a ‘knock knock’ joke after delicate surgery


Emotional moment a cancer-stricken two-year-old boy named Joey responds to his dad’s ‘knock knock’ joke after surgery doctors feared would leave him brain dead – and the end will melt your heart

  • Joey Potter, 2, nearly died on the operating table getting a tumor removed 
  • Surgeons saved his life with a transfusion of three times his blood volume 
  • They were feared he might have severe brain damage from the blood loss 
  • But when he replied to a beloved ‘knock knock’ joke they knew he was okay

The parents of a toddler fighting cancer have shared details about the heart-warming moment he replied to a ‘knock knock’ joke after surgery that could have left him brain dead. 

Two-year-old Joey Potter underwent surgery to remove a tumour, half of his liver, and about a third of his diaphragm in April.

His parents Jack Potter, 37, and Kitty Cook, 36, from the Brisbane suburb of Moorooka waited nervously after the challenging operation for him to wake up. 

Despite barely being able to open his eyes after the operation in which he needed a massive blood transfusion to save his life, the little boy could not resist his dad’s ‘knock knock’ joke.

‘Knock knock,’ his father asked him.

‘Who’s there?’ Joey weakly replied. 

‘The interrupting cow.’

‘Moo’.

Mr Potter said he burst into tears when he heard the response.

Jack Potter with six-and-half-month-old daughter Luna, Kitty Cook and two-year-old Joey (pictured)

Jack Potter with six-and-half-month-old daughter Luna, Kitty Cook and two-year-old Joey (pictured) 

His parents have been in awe of Joey’s strength since at six-months-old he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. 

He had previously had a surgery to remove that tumor, along with his right kidney, and appeared to have beaten the disease. 

But in March this year, just a week after Ms Cook’s father unexpectedly died, the couple were told the cancer was back and the survival rate for relapses of this type of growth, a Wilms tumor, was only 50 per cent. 

The devastated couple prepared Joey for surgery again, this time to remove the 6cm growth, half of his liver and a third of his diaphragm.  

While the operation ‘went terribly’ it was also lifesaving. 

A bit of scar tissue from the previous operation had attached to his biggest vein causing a tear as they were operating. 

The surgeons had literally seconds to save his life and a blood transfusion of three times his circulating blood volume was needed. 

They took 45 minutes to stablise his condition but the team feared the blood loss could have caused catastrophic brain damage. 

It wasn’t until Joey spoke his first words after the operation that it was clear he was his old self.  

Joey Potter, 2, had a tumor as well as half his liver and a third of his diaphragm removed in an operation in which doctors have to race to save his life (pictured in ICU)

Joey Potter, 2, had a tumor as well as half his liver and a third of his diaphragm removed in an operation in which doctors have to race to save his life (pictured in ICU) 

Joey after the operation

Joey has already battled cancer and won before

A huge wave of relief washed over Joey’s parents and doctors when he responded to the knock knock joke (left). The youngster has previously beaten cancer (right)

While the operation successfully removed the tumor, Joey still has a long road ahead with chemotherapy and many hospital visits.

‘The first round of chemo is done. It took quite a while for him to recover and he’s a bit more timid and withdrawn than his usual self. I guess with anyone it takes time to get back to your full level of function,’ Mr Potter told Daily Mail Australia.

‘After his first chemo cycle it went as well as you could hope for, he wasn’t too unwell but it has a more cumulative effect so it builds up.’

‘The treatment plan is not finalised but at this stage he has to do 10 x three week cycles so 30 weeks but that could easily balloon out if he gets unwell.’

‘He had one down week after chemo he wasn’t eating much and we were worried about him losing weight because that’s a big indicator for kids.’

Joey needs to be clear of cancer for five years before doctors can confidently say he has beaten it, something his parents are sure the bright and energetic toddler can do. 

‘He’s back out on the trampoline again now and we have a little waterway in the park near our house that he’s been stomping around in and we’ve lit some backyard campfires, so doing all that stuff kids love.’

‘Tomorrow his round second of chemo starts. He’s already starting to get some of those classic side effects. His baby sister Juna will grab at his hair and a handful just comes out.’

‘He’s good with her, he watches over her and is quite a mature for a two-and-a-half-year-old. she’ll be playing with a toy and it will scoot away from her and he will pick it up and bring it back to her.’

The community has rallied around the young family, something Mr Potter said was very humbling. 

‘All the support has been amazing. His daycare put up a hospital donation box and we got a double bed for his room because we’ll be expecting to sleep in there with him when he’s unwell so we got given sheets and things for that, people have been cooking us meals and hanging out.’

Two of his friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the significant hospital bills. 

Joey and his parents (pictured with mum Kitty) now have a long road of chemotherapy ahead

Joey and his parents (pictured with mum Kitty) now have a long road of chemotherapy ahead

‘Myself and a lot of my friends have creative industries backgrounds and one friend even did up a great video.’

‘We just really want to say thank you to everyone who has been so generous with their time and resources.’ 

He also said he felt for the other families the couple has seen while doing Joey’s treatment. 

‘Every night in that hospital and in out-patient treatment there a couple of hundred families battling similar things. Our hearts go out to them as well.’

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