To shine a light on the importance of children’s hospitals and how donations help kids get the best care when they need it, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is pleased to participate in the third annual #ChildrensHospitalsWeek from March 18-25.
During #ChildrensHospitalsWeek, a series of fun and educational events are planned at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. It is also a good time to look back on those patients who are thriving thanks to the great care and the expertise of The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
Below is one such story, featuring young Kaden and his fight to overcome the odds.
If ever a kid deserves to feel the wind in his hair– and the dust and dirt of off-roading in a cool battery-powered pickup– it’s 7-year-old-Kaden.
Diagnosed with a rare birth defect called congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) when he was still in-utero, Kaden faced a 5 percent chance of survival at birth. CDH meant his kidneys, liver, stomach, pancreas and intestine were developing in his chest cavity, instead of his abdomen. However, he arrived via emergency c-section full of fight, managed a cry no one through possible with lungs only two-thirds developed. That fighting spirit carried him through what his parents, Stephanie and Todd, had been prepared to expect, multiples surgeries to repair and relocate their son’s organs to their proper homes.
It also carried Kaden through the unexpected, including a stroke when he was three days old, hydrocephalus (fluid build-up in his brain after the stroke), collapsed lungs, blood clotting and feeding issues.
Looking at Kaden now—a mini-me of his Dad, down to the kid-size work truck, equipment trailer and shirt branded with the logo of the family’s landscaping business—you’d think that’s all behind him. But it’s not.
Kaden still sees 13 specialists at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and other clinics; they monitor his organ functions and help manage the ongoing medical, developmental and behavioral after-effects of all that he has endured.
First it was ensuring Kaden’s nutrition through a feeding tube, which Stephanie mastered through research, persistence, creativity—and a blender to beat all blenders.
Then it was getting Kaden to walk, which came at 19 months after he had learned to drive. Stephanie laughed at the memory: “He received a power-wheel truck from my parents when he was 17 months old. He couldn’t even walk yet, but he was driving it. It was spectacular to see how great a driver he became.” (After running that truck into the ground, Kaden is racking up miles on a newer model.)
Now the focus is on getting Kaden, a very bright child, to grade-level at school. Complicating things are disrupted sleep—Kaden burns calories at twice the rate of other kids, making midnight snacks mandatory—and a seizure disorder and issues with attention and anxiety that may be attributed to stroke.
“I’d like to say that after seven years we’ve figured everything out, but we really haven’t,” Stephanie said. That’s where the village comes in.
Kaden’s health journey has been everyone’s health journey, with the team at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and the church community Todd describes as a “backbone” holding close a big, hands-on family.
“When you have a kid like Kaden, and odds aren’t always in your favor, you have to be 100 percent optimistic,” Stephanie said. “Rather than look at the big picture all the time, we just look at the small steps in the journey.”
That has been the couple’s approach since the first sonogram glimpses of their son, early in Stephanie’s complicated pregnancy. When they learned at 16 weeks they were having a boy, Todd proposed the name “Kaden,” from a Gaelic word that means “fighter.” Four weeks later, upon diagnosis of CDH, the suitability of the name became clear.
Todd said, “We have seen our son go from ‘not expected to survive,’ to being told he would not make it through the night, to being on life support, to having multiple surgeries. Everything we heard Kaden would never be able to do … he has done.”