Chris Cox prepares to leave Children’s Hospital
Senior year for high school students is a time of unprecedented excitement and possibility. It is a time when thoughts turn to the future and when parents and children alike indulge in the simple joy of optimism.
For the Cox family of Grand County though the last eight months have been focused almost exclusively on the here and now and the life and death struggle young Christopher Cox has fought as he battled a rare disease called Idiopathic Acute Aplastic Anemia.
The road has been long and difficult with heartbreaking setbacks and medical concerns that, for a time, only seemed to mount. Christopher has undergone multiple surgeries and a bone marrow transplant. He has experienced tremendous pain but through it all he, and his family, have endured and while the family remains cautiously optimistic it appears the storm clouds are finally beginning to break and someday relatively soon Christopher will be returning home to begin what will be a lengthy process of recovery.
A RARE CONDITION
Christopher’s condition left him with an extremely low blood platelet count, meaning his blood was unable to clot and even minor bumps or cuts could result in serious or fatal consequences. He was diagnosed on September 17, 2015 and other than a few instances he has remained hospitalized nearly every day since.
On February 19 this year Christopher received a bone marrow transplant to fight his condition and the prognosis at the moment is good.
“His white blood cell count, platelet count and neutrophil count are all in the normal range,” said Christopher’s mom Andrea Cox. “His red blood cells and hemoglobin are not yet in the normal range but the doctors aren’t worried.”
Andrea explained that Chris is scheduled to undergo a test called a chimera test in the near future to see if the new blood cells implanted in him for his bone marrow transplant are producing new cells. The test is named for the ancient mythological Greek creature formed from multiple different animals because bone marrow transplant recipients have two people’s DNA inside their bodies.
“The goal is to just have the donor cells producing,” Andrea said. Christopher has already undergone one chimera test after his transplant that showed positive results. Andrea said positive test results indicate his body is not rejecting his transplant, but cautioned that Christopher’s body could still reject the transplanted marrow in the future.
Andrea is hopeful that Chris will be released from Children’s Hospital in Aurora in the next week or so. After his release he will be transitioning to Brent’s Place, located nearby Children’s Hospital in Aurora. Brent’s Place is safe-clean housing facility that specializes in providing sterile living arraignments for patients with compromised immune systems recovering from transplants and cancer treatments. Chris is expected to remain at Brent’s Place for several weeks up to a month or more, until doctors think he is ready to return home.
Andrea was immensely grateful to have access to Brent’s Place, which has an extensive waiting list for patients. “Being able to go to Brent’s Place, where it is completely clean; it takes such a burden off the parents.” Andrea said. But she added, “I hope people who read this article never have to know that places like that exist.”
The joy the Cox family feels as Christopher prepares to leave the hospital is tempered though because the young man was already released from the hospital once, for 23 hours, before developing an infection that required a return to Children’s and an additional surgery. “That was the most painful surgery he has had,” Andrea said. Despite his pain when doctors told Chis he could start walking again last Friday he relished the opportunity. “He was so excited to be able to walk again,” Andrea said. “He is one determined kid. He wants to get better and get back to his life.”
The Cox family is preparing their home for Christopher’s return. The family must clean, dust and scrub essentially every inch of the family home as well as remove any old carpeting, furniture and window blinds. “Anything that can harbor old diseases,” said Andrea. The family will also be painting their bathrooms with an anti-microbial paint and conducting radon testing.
After returning home Christopher will experience a level of freedom that has seemed like a distant dream since his ordeal began. He will be able to go outside on occasion and feel the wind on his face, though he will be required to breath through a respirator mask to prevent him from breathing in dust, which could contain germs and compromise his immune system.
Chris will also be able to see friends once again, though only in small numbers and after visitors take specific precautions. He will not be able to be in large crowds of any kind for at least one full year after his transplant, and possibly longer.
As the Cox family begins to see shimmers of light at the end of their long tunnel their thoughts, and Chris’s, are once again turning to the future. The young man has dreams of attending Colorado State University, as he did before his diagnosis. He will however need to finish his senior year of high school, which was suddenly interrupted by the tribulations of the last eight months.
“Christopher has been a great healer,” Andrea said. “He has overcome stuff that would have killed other kids. He has such a will to get through this. He is going to do whatever it takes to get better and get back on track for his life.”
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