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Even though Cole had a heart condition called cardiomyopathy, his mom could never have prepared herself for the call from his school one day, telling her that her son was not breathing. Cole had gone into cardiac arrest and was without oxygen for 30 minutes. He spent more than a year in hospital in Edmonton on a Berlinheart – an external device that essentially acted as his heart until a transplant was found. After his surgery, Cole was transferred to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, where specialists began fixing some of the damage done by Cole’s heart attack and the aftermath. During a biopsy of his new heart, Cole went into cardiac arrest – later determined to have been caused by a blood clot – and it took specialists 10 minutes to revive him.
Brain damage caused by the cardiac arrests and atrophy from the lack of movement meant a long road of rehab for Cole. He was suffering from scoliosis – for which he underwent and extensive surgery– as well as a curved-in foot and dystonia (some of his arm muscles weren’t working). At the starting point, he was completely bedridden, not even able lift his head off the pillow. Cole began attending Gordon Townsend School at the hospital, where specialists worked with him on everything from speech therapy to hand movement so he could operate a power wheelchair.
It was a slow process over the course of a year, but Cole worked hard with the physio, physical, speech and music therapists to train his brain to do many things he used to be able to. Eventually, he was at the point where his schoolwork was the main focus at Gordon Townsend, not his rehab. It was then Cole was able to attend his regular high school, Bishop Grandin, where he continues his studies today. Cole also went through the independence camp through the hospital, where he was able to practice skills like writing a resume and taking transit. The camp was so helpful and motivating, it inspired him to get a job at a local gym. He now uses his walker to get around sometimes rather than his wheelchair and is able to communicate – mainly by typing on his iPad.
Vicky says though Cole has been through so much, he is the happiest kid you’ve ever seen. She used to have to physically carry him around the house, but now, thanks to the care at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, he leads a much more independent life. Vicky says through the family’s journey, she has come to learn about the incredible amount and quality of services offered at the hospital – something that’s helped not only Cole, but her as well. “I had no idea there was this kind of support,” she says. “I wouldn’t have made it through without them.”