THE COMPASS

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DADDY’S BOY BY TREVOR BOSMA

Oliver was born November 28, 2011, the proudest day of my life. Not only was I a father but I had a son, who would be my best buddy. At four months old, Oliver had the task of taking care of daddy while mommy went back to work. Little did we know that staying home with daddy would turn Oliver into a hockey-crazy child. At seven months old Oliver said “hockey” for the first time. At eight months he was introduced to a hockey stick. At 10 months old Oliver was walking around the house with a little hockey stick, shooting balls at me. He walked around everywhere with his hockey stick.

On February 28, 2013 Oliver was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic, at only 15 months old. This was a shock to my wife and I, but it explained a lot about how Oliver was acting the past few months. Illness that took me two days to get over took Oliver two months. Oliver’s weight fluctuated greatly. After his type 1 diagnosis, Oliver gained back most of his weight and started to look healthy again. When he turned 18 months old he slowly stopped walking and regressed back to crawling. He stopped playing hockey and riding his bike. We took Oliver to the doctor to check his ears for an infection. The doctor said his ears were full of fluid and this was probably why he was having trouble walking. We had taken Oliver swimming three days in a row and I accidentally dunked him during a trip down the water slide. We were sent home with a prescription for Claritin.

After a month of Oliver taking Claritin he still was struggling to walk. He was now terrified of heights. We also noticed that his eyes were starting to cross. He refused to eat anything and he was constantly banging his head on the floor. My wife pushed the doctor for an MRI. We were praying it was not a brain tumour and I remember always telling my wife to stay positive and not to think about brain tumours. I was terrified of the thought of a brain tumour. My grandfather had survived six major brain surgeries to remove brain tumours and I saw first-hand how it affected him.

The day of the MRI I took my pregnant wife, due in two to three weeks with our second child, and my toddler to the Stollery. Oliver was scheduled for a 30-minute MRI. After nearly 60 minutes we started worrying about his blood sugar and my wife was requesting we go in to test him. No one would give us a straight answer, and they kept saying he would be out shortly. We explained multiple times that Oliver was a type 1 diabetic and if he went low in the MRI he would go into a coma.

Then my wife’s cell phone rang. As I am trying to calm my extremely frustrated pregnant wife her phone is ringing and ringing. Finally she said “It’s Dr. Sukrahni,” Oliver’s pediatrician. As I am sitting in the waiting room watching my wife talk on the phone I start thinking to myself, “Why is his MRI taking so long? What did they find?” Then I see my wife collapse to the floor. I run over and grab her. As my wife is lying in my arms she is crying uncontrollably and trying to tell me what is wrong. I finally hear her say, “It’s a tumour.’’

My world stopped. How is this little person, not even 20 months old, already going through more trauma in his life than most of us will in our entire time on this earth? We sat in that room begging to see Oliver, my wife crying, me in complete shock with tears running down my face and two members of the neurosurgery team talking to us but I heard no words.

They finally let us see Oliver. I thought I had failed as a father because I could not protect him. Oliver was admitted to the ICU and the doctors informed us he was to have emergency brain surgery in the morning. As Oliver played and flirted with the nurses, as he is quite the ladies man, my wife and I spoke with Dr. Mehta and Wendy. They showed us his MRI results and his tumour. It was the size of a large Christmas orange and was located at the back of his head. These questions were a few of many running through my mind. Dr. Metha informed us of all the possible complications and steps to be taken throughout the night and surgery in the morning. He asked a lot of questions: how does he eat, how does he sleep, is he happy, do his eyes cross and is he delayed?

My world stopped. How is this little person, not even 20 months old, already going through more trauma in his life then most of us will in our entire time on this earth?

Everything started to make sense. Oliver was a fussy baby because he had a tumour pushing on his brain and brain stem his whole life. He would only eat mush because he couldn’t breathe when he tried to swallow solids. He took three big breaths and paused for 10-15 seconds as he slept because his airways were blocked and this caused sleep apnea. He wouldn’t walk anymore and was terrified of heights because the pressure on his brain made him dizzy. He would go cross-eyed because of the pressure on his optical nerves. He would cry and get upset when he got excited to see family and friends because it put pressure on his head and it gave him constant terrible headaches.

Dr. Metha sat with us and explained all the possible complications. We were terrified. There was a one-per-cent chance of death and a 10-per-cent chance he never speaks, eats or breathes on his own again. They also informed us to plan for five to six weeks in the hospital as the recovery from brain surgery is a long, hard road. We cried all night, holding Oliver while all three of us curled up on a single-person hospital bed.

At seven in the morning, we wheeled Oliver down to the operating room. Oliver woke up and told my wife and I he loved us and we gave him hugs and kisses. I grabbed Dr. Metha, hugged him and said, “Please save my boy.” One hour felt like a day, three hours felt like a month and finally after four hours (which felt like an eternity) we got good news. They had removed 90 per cent of the tumour; they only had a piece left on the brain stem and it needed to be dealt with very carefully. Wendy told us to expect Oliver to be in surgery for another four hours. After an hour, Wendy arrived back upstairs. They got all of it!

I was so proud of Oliver. Then came the news: they wouldn’t know if he could talk, eat, see or walk until he woke up. My wife and I held Oliver’s hands all night. The next day Oliver started to swell up like a balloon. Still he woke up, and he said, “Mommy, daddy.”

Day three came and Oliver was in constant pain. Yet he still tried to crawl out of bed, drink fluids, talk to us (and his speech improved at lightning speed) and read books with us. By day four, Oliver was trying to pull every tube attached to him off and he was pretty successful. Oliver was now on the road to recovery and at a pace that shocked even the doctors. We were moved out of ICU and into a room with three other children. Oliver would not stay still. He wanted to get up and play, to read, to watch TV and to eat. I was so proud of him.

They wouldn’t know if he could talk, eat, see or walk until he woke up. My wife and I held Oliver’s hands all night. The next day Oliver started to swell up like a balloon. Still he woke up, and he said, “Mommy, daddy.”

Oliver was quickly known around the ICE unit as “Superman.” Oliver’s recovery time was unbelievable. Every day we would go for car rides, play foosball in the playroom and eat at the cafeteria. On day two, in the pediatric unit, Oliver tried to walk on his own. He let go of my hand in the playroom and tried to walk to the toys. I walked behind him with my hands around his sides waiting for him to fall. Proud is an understatement, I was so shocked at what he was doing after only eight days post brain surgery. Each day that passed Oliver got stronger and stronger.

On August 18, 2013 my wife and I took Oliver for a car ride. As I held my wife’s hand she suddenly squeezed it. I looked at her and said, “Are you okay?” She replied, “I was keeping it quiet but they are getting worse. I am having contractions every five minutes.” I told Oliver that his sister was coming today and my wife organized a ride to the Grey Nuns hospital to deliver our daughter. When my wife left Oliver and I she was having contractions every three minutes. Oliver was still at the stage where if my wife or I were not in his presence, he’d lose his mind. So while my wife had our second child, her mother, sister and best friend took my place to help her through it. I was hurt I could not see the birth of my daughter but I knew how strong my wife was and that she was in good hands. My sister-in-law sent me videos of my daughter immediately after her arrival into this world. She also sent me pictures, texts and I had a quick phone call with my wife. Oliver had a new baby sister only days after his brain surgery, and he was so excited. When Oliver went to bed a few family members took my place beside his bed while I raced over to the Grey Nuns to meet my daughter and comfort my wife. My daughter was healthy and beautiful, and my wife was feeling ready to get back on her feet and to Oliver’s side.

On August 25, 2014, only 12 days after major brain surgery, Oliver was allowed to go home. No one could believe it! After being told he would most likely be in the hospital recovering for five to six weeks, we never dreamed he would be going home two days shy of two weeks. When Oliver arrived home with my wife, his new baby sister and me it was like a weight lifted off his shoulders. Oliver was running around telling us everything he saw – the balloons dropped off for him and his baby sister, the chocolates left for him, new toys from friends and family and the new lawn grandpa had installed with the help of some other family members. Seeing Oliver so engaged was an amazing feeling. I guess it was like a weight lifted off of my shoulders as well. I was so proud that Oliver, aka Superman, recovered so fast, and proud that my wife was so strong before, during and after all that happened with Oliver and the birth of our daughter. And I was so thankful for our amazing family and friends.

Oliver is walking, running, jumping, talking and swimming, and everything is taking off at rapid speed. He surprises us daily with his new words, sentences and goofball antics. Oliver is still about six months behind all his friends in his development but in due time he will catch up to his buddies and we will be there to encourage him as he develops new skills. I truly do cherish everyday and live each day as though it is my last with my family. Life without Oliver would destroy me and I am so thankful for everything Dr. Metha, Wendy and all the neurosurgery team did for Oliver and our family.

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