Eleven-year-old Roger was a healthy kid. He enjoyed karate, playing with friends and going to school. But in August 2020, Roger started wobbling when he walked. Then, one day at school, Roger fell and couldn't get up.
Roger and his mom, Ermina, traveled over three hours from their home in Henderson, Texas, to Cook Children's. After a series of tests and a spinal tap, Roger was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves.
When Roger didn't respond to the initial course of treatment, he received a second diagnosis: acute sensory motor axonal neuropathy (ASMAN), a subtype of GBS that affects the sensory nerves and roots. This means that Roger's symptoms are more severe, and his healing will take longer.
When Roger returned home after a six-week stay at the medical center, he was able to walk with a walker. It was tough for the family to find physical therapy in their hometown, though, and Roger began to lose his strength. Then, in April 2021, Roger's face became paralyzed.
"He lost that cute face he has. He lost his dimples," Ermina said. "For a while, we were in a dark place. He lost a lot of strength, and a lot of hope."
That May, Roger was admitted to Cook Children's for three weeks of in-patient physical therapy. One person who helped Roger find hope was Anne, a Child Life specialist in the Rehabilitation Care Unit (RCU). She and her Sit…Stay…PLAY facility dog, Brienne, brought him comfort during his stay at the medical center.
"She's a shining light in the mornings when you don't feel like dealing with anything," Ermina said. "It helped to have someone come in, make you smile and be positive. And Roger loves Brie."
Roger underwent intravenous immunoglobulin therapy (IVIg), and his face began to loosen. After weeks of feeling hopeless, Roger could finally smile again. Even more importantly, he wanted to smile again.
"He was smiling because of Anne, Brie, his nurses and his doctors," Ermina said. "My son came out of Cook Children's with a smile on his face. He didn't have it for a long time, but when he came out with hope in his eyes, and those dimples… it was amazing."
Today, Roger uses a wheelchair. He has returned to school full time, and shares his story at virtual and in-person events as a Cook Children's Patient Ambassador. And, he hasn't lost his smile.
"They didn't give up on my son. That gave me hope, not to give up," Ermina said. "No one wants to go through this, but if you have to, you want it to be with the kind of people at Cook Children's."
With the help of his Cook Children's family, Roger found hope and a reason to smile.
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