THE COMPASS

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COURAGEOUS COHEN BY TAMMY SAMOIL

I am the proud mother of three boys. Cohen is our youngest son. On August 20, 2012 he was admitted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital emergency with a high fever, vomiting, severe lethargy and two different types of rashes. We thought he had the symptoms of meningitis, but it was a severe blood infection.

By the late evening of August 22, Cohen was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care unit. The doctors told us that Cohen had suffered eight to 10 strokes, the infection was attacking his heart and an infected growth was damaging the valve in his heart. On August 23, 2012 our little Cohen had open heart bypass surgery. It was a tremendous success. The surgical team was able to take off the growth, but they needed to replace one of Cohen’s heart valves as it was severely damaged by the bacteria. He will require at least two more heart surgeries as he continues to grow to replace the valve.

As Cohen started his recovery in the cardiac section of the PICU, he seemed to be improving. He was still on many IV antibiotics and drugs, but he had started speaking again and had about eight to 10 words before he was moved to the regular ward.

I’ll never forget the night of September 7, 2012. The Rapid Response Team took Cohen back to the intensive care. An aneurysm, unruptured, was making the pressure in Cohen’s brain mount and placing him in grave danger. Cohen had a tube inserted into his brain to drain this fluid and relieve the pressure. He also suffered seizures. Soon after, doctors sent Cohen in for an angiogram and inserted glue into his head to hold the aneurysm in place to prevent further brain damage. The aneurysm burst under the pressure of the glue, but the glue held the clot in place.

Just as we seemed to have brought this under control, Cohen then developed vasculitis and was put on high doses of steroids. This seemed to have cleared up so Cohen was taken again for another angiogram to get a better look at his vessels and arteries. We never thought he’d have an allergic reaction to the angiogram dye, especially since he’d already been exposed to this only a week before. Cohen had an anaphylactic reaction. His run of very bad luck never seemed to end and he couldn’t catch a break.

Throughout this second stay in PICU, we still weren’t sure how Cohen’s vision was affected and what exactly he could see. We knew his right side was severely affected by his first set of strokes and now the left side of his body was severely impaired from the aneurysm. If that wasn’t enough, we were extremely worried as Cohen hadn’t said a word or acknowledged any sort of understanding for weeks after the aneurysm. During this time Cohen still required the tube in his head to help drain the fluid, our options were fairly limited and it looked like Cohen would need a shunt. So, after many conversations with our neurosurgeons, we tried a third ventriculostomy surgery. Although initially his pressures looked like they were dropping, Cohen ultimately still had to have another surgery for the VP shunt placement.

Cohen is very motivated, stubborn and determined: all amazing qualities to have for some who recently became very ill, recovered and is now on a new journey of rehabilitation.

On November 4, 2012, Cohen was discharged from the Stollery after 77 days, 55 of which were in PICU. Cohen is truly our miracle child. Our ultimate goal for him is to be able to walk again and I know some day that will happen, just not for a while. But for now, he is a happy child learning to move again on his own terms and in his own ways. Cohen is very motivated, stubborn and determined: all amazing qualities to have for someone who recently became very ill, recovered and is now on a new journey of rehabilitation.

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