There must have been Thanksgivings over the past few years when the Mosbys of Upper Marlboro wondered what, exactly, they were supposed to be thankful for. Five years ago, William Mosby lost his job as an IT contractor. Janet Mosby was working only part time. They lost their health insurance. They fell behind on their mortgage. They were close to losing their home.

A turkey, some stuffing and cranberry sauce — the Mosbys could have been forgiven for thinking these were slim consolations.

Then in November 2006, their 8-year-old son Jordan came home from school with a headache and a fever. The family’s pediatrician thought it must have been a virus that was going around. If it doesn’t get better, he said, take him to Children’s National Medical Center. His first visit to Children’s was inconclusive, but a few days later at home, Jordan went into a seizure. He was rushed to the emergency department.

A sinus infection had infiltrated Jordan’s dura, the material that covers the brain. Antibiotics alone couldn’t defeat the infection, so surgeons performed a craniotomy, opening the skull and scraping away at the noxious mass inside. When the tenacious infection roared back, they went in a second time. There was a pitched battle going on inside Jordan, and doctors readied themselves to operate again, fearful Jordan was losing the fight.

When his younger brother, Zane, visited him in the hospital, Jordan was a swollen bundle of tubes and wires. Janet Mosby watched as her 4-year-old son walked up to his big brother. “Zane saw him, touched his hand, and we could hear him pray: ‘God, please make my Jordan better.’ ”

The Mosbys know it was the fine work of Children’s Hospital that saved their oldest son — without a third surgery — but they’re convinced that the many prayers directed his way played a part, too. After relearning how to walk and talk, Jordan is a freshman at Bishop McNamara High School, on the football and wrestling teams and an honor roll student.

A year later, it was Zane who needed the prayers. He complained of feeling lethargic, and his parents noticed bruising on his arms. When the results of a blood test came back, the pediatrician said, “I need you to get to Children’s immediately.”

Zane had leukemia.

For William and Janet, the moment was like that one in a movie when the camera zooms in instantly, making everything around the center of the frame a blur. “We were just getting back on our feet when this hit us,” Janet said. “When you’re dealing with your children and it’s life and death, everything else pales.”

After 31 / 2 years of chemotherapy Zane is in remission. Things are looking up for his parents, too. They’re still searching for full-time, long-term work in a tough employment climate, but the Mosbys qualified for help with their house through Maryland’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance program. And they don’t need to worry about the bills racked up saving their sons’ lives. They received financial assistance through Children’s uncompensated-care fund.

“There are times in all of our lives when we need help,” Janet said.

Said William: “The most important thing to me is that there is a Children’s Hospital. Even though we got traumatic news about Zane, we knew this was the place to be.”

Today the Mosbys — a middle-class family laid low by fate and circumstance — will gather around the table in the house they almost lost, with the boys they almost lost.

“We live in an absolute state of thankfulness,” Janet said. “Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday in life.”

How you can help

As Jordan was being admitted to Children’s, Janet remembers a staffer asking what tests had been done on him during his previous visit. Janet listed them, then wondered whether Jordan would have had more tests done if the family hadn’t lost its insurance.

Remembered Janet: “She said to me, ‘This is Children’s Hospital. We don’t turn away any child. Your not having insurance doesn’t make any difference. We’re here to save children’s lives.’ ”

You can help with this noble effort. Your tax-deductible donation will go to the hospital’s uncompensated-care fund, which pays the medical bills of underinsured children. Please send a check or money order (payable to “Children’s Hospital”) to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390. To donate online, go to