Christian was a vibrant, healthy, active 2.5-year-old boy. Then, on August 12th 2014, everything changed.
Christian caught a virus, like many children do, but his body had a rare autoimmune response. Instead of fighting the virus, his body attacked his nervous system, causing severe swelling and lesions of the spinal cord. The extensive damage left him in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he lay paralyzed and intubated for weeks.
When the extent of the damage done and how severely impacted his lungs were became clear, Christian had a trach put in to help him breathe. In September 2014, once stable, Christian was transferred to Franciscan Children’s where he would begin his rehabilitation.
When he arrived at Franciscan, Christian was still unable to breathe on his own and required being ventilated 24/7. His movement capabilities were limited – he was just starting to shuffle his feet back and forth on his bed, had very limited movement in his right hand, and only the slightest bit of head movement. Christian required constant repositioning because he was so uncomfortable. Unable to speak, it would be months before his family would hear his voice.
During his 13-month stay at Franciscan, Christian’s father, Paul, was by his side every day. The family even came up with a special way to celebrate Christian’s strength throughout his journey, and remind him that he wasn’t alone, “We always wanted Christian to know that we were a team, and that we were going through this together. So we had different shirts for different days of the week – Flash Mondays, Superman Tuesdays, Spider-Man Wednesdays, Batman Fridays…”
Even Christian’s doctors, nurses, and other members of his care team joined in the fun, honoring a super kid by wearing their own hero-themed outfits. “Everyone has been incredible,” said Beth, Christian’s mom. “It hasn’t been an easy journey, that’s for sure, and… they’ve helped us through. We’re getting our little boy back.”
Gradually, with the help of his care team, Christian began to gain back his strength and mobility, “His recovery has been remarkable,” says Dr. David Leslie, Pediatrician on the Inpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation unit at Franciscan Children’s. “We’re just thrilled to see how he’s doing.”
While Christian’s hard work and perseverance have been invaluable during his recovery, his dedicated care team of Franciscan health care professionals each played their own instrumental role in his rehabilitation. Christian received intensive physical, occupational, speech, and swallow therapies daily. Combined with the assistance of Child Life and child psychology, Christian was able to work through his challenges both physically and emotionally. This comprehensive care model, along with the hospital’s capabilities to handle medically complex patients, plays a big part in what makes Franciscan so unique.
Today, over a year after arriving at Franciscan Children’s, Christian is standing, working toward walking without the assistance of his wheelchair, moving both of his hands and his right arm, and is now completely off his ventilator. He is talking non-stop and has started to eat small amounts of solid food again.
Fourteen months after initially being hospitalized, Christian and his family are ready to go home to Weston – as a family of four. The family welcomed their fourth member, a beautiful baby girl, while Christian was in the hospital. When asked what he was most excited to do when he got home, playing with his little sister didn’t top the list – but playing with his toy fire truck did.
The strength that Christian has showed throughout his recovery has inspired many, including his family, friends, and caregivers, “I can’t even begin to imagine what this means for him and what he can accomplish,” said Beth. “He is definitely a special kid, for sure.”
Dr. Leslie echoed Christian’s mother’s sentiments, “He’s a wonderful kid, and he’s pretty competitive. I think that will serve him well as he continues to get better.” Christian will continue his therapies on an outpatient basis with members of his rehabilitation team.
Christian was discharged from Franciscan Children’s just six days before his fourth birthday. His caregivers, family and the friends they made at Franciscan during their stay were all on hand for an enthusiastic send-off – complete with tears, cheers, and bubbles.
On his way out the door, when asked what Christian wanted for his birthday, he responded simply, “I wish for a cake.” Christian’s mom seems to think that they can make that happen.
To learn more about the Inpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, please click here.
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