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Living life to the fullest: Colton's story

November 16, 2011

Colton is as wild and unpredictable as the bright red curls springing from his head. He loves life, and by life I mean sports, of course. As he bounds around the house, football in hand, it is hard to imagine that this lively 2-year-old was born with a disease that nearly took his young life.

He was born at a local hospital and seemed at first to be perfectly healthy. His doctors became concerned, though, when he didn’t have a bowel movement within his first 24 hours of life. They kept him in the hospital for a week as they monitored him, and he began to pass small amounts of stool. They sent him home with instructions for his parents to keep a close eye on him.

For the next two weeks, he was like any other newborn: sleeping most of the day, cooing and snuggling with Mom and Dad. On his 22nd day of life, though, things changed dramatically. He began vomiting, and his parents rushed him to the hospital.

Over a period of just a few hours, it was clear that Colton had become very ill. His doctors recommended that he be transferred to Arnold Palmer Hospital for further care. He was transported emergently by helicopter, as his situation appeared to be worsening by the minute. During the course of their flight, the unthinkable happened: the helicopter struck a bird and had to make an emergency landing.

An ambulance met them at their landing site and continued transporting Colton and his parents to the hospital. Once they arrived, the medical team worked to evaluate and stabilize Colton. He was very sick with an infection. His mother, Erin, remembers:

“It was scary. He went from being totally fine to being at death’s door within 24 hours. We didn’t know if he was going to make it.”

But, Colton did make it. Each day he got a little bit stronger, and as he became stronger doctors were able to perform tests to diagnose his underlying problem: Hirschsprung’s disease. Colton was born without certain nerves in his large intestine that help him move his bowels. He was unable to get rid of his body’s waste effectively, and that was the underlying cause of his sickness.

Colton needed to undergo a surgical procedure to remove the affected parts of his large intestine. Dr. Ross Morgan, pediatric surgeon, removed part of the intestine and performed a colostomy, giving Colton’s body an alternative route to get rid of waste. His improvement following the surgery was dramatic. Erin says, “After the surgery, he wasn’t just better. He began to thrive.”

Miraculously, Colton went home from the hospital one week later. After six months, a healthy Colton came back to the hospital for Dr. Morgan to reverse the colostomy. His doctors would try to reattach his own intestine, which would allow him to live a completely normal life. Erin remembers:

“He almost didn’t have enough intestine because so much had to be taken out during the first surgery. But, because Dr. Morgan is such a great surgeon, he did it. Now, my son can go to the bathroom totally normally. He doesn’t have to see any doctors for anything now. He is a completely healthy little boy, and it is all thanks to the doctors and nurses at Arnold Palmer Hospital.”

Now, Colton lives the life of a normal 2-year-old boy who loves anything to do with sports. He is an energetic daredevil whose excitement for life is contagious. Now, the only thing is mother has to worry about is keeping up with him.