Colton was born prematurely July 14, 2000, to Christen Condon and Doris Eagle Crow of Rosebud. His early birth resulted in developmental delays, so he was slower to reach milestones, but he was still a joy to his doting parents. He tended to be sick a lot, and in the early months of 2002, was hospitalized three times with pneumonia.
Then one day in early May, Doris, Christian, and little Colton were driving from their home in Rosebud to nearby Valentine, Nebraska, to do some shopping. Colton was recovering from his latest bout with pneumonia, but was “laughing and playing,” says Doris. He fell asleep on the ride, then abruptly awoke having convulsions. His parents drove him directly to the nearest hospital, where he was stabilized before being flown to Rapid City Regional Hospital. Colton continued to have periodic seizures, and was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. The attacks set Colton back further; his muscles became stiff, and he lost many of his skills, including the ability to eat, talk, and sit up. He went home after ten days, but one day later was flown to Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls after experiencing more seizures. The right combination of anti-seizure medications was found, but Colton had a lot of recovering to do. His family was referred to Children’s Care Hospital & School.
Colton was admitted to the Inpatient Pediatric Rehabilitation Program at Children’s Care in late May. The Children’s Care Rehab Team—which includes pediatric physiatrist Dr. Julie Johnson, speech therapist Peggy Bortnem, physical therapist Lois Vogel, and occupational therapist Linda Bohmhoff—first assessed his needs. The team, along with Colton’s parents and his primary nurse Marci Osterkamp, then put together a rehabilitation plan for Colton.
From the beginning, Christian and Doris were actively involved in their son’s recovery. Both took leaves from their jobs—Doris as a teacher’s aide and Christian as a tribal police officer—and relocated to Sioux Falls. They sold one of their cars, found temporary jobs, and stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, arranging their schedules so that one parent could always be with Colton. They watched and participated in his daily therapy sessions, sometimes videotaping them, so they could learn how to best help him. They learned what medical warning signs to watch for and what small recovery signs to build on. Later, Colton’s parents stayed in the Children’s Care on-site family apartment, so they could learn how to feed him and administer his medicine through the new feeding tube placed directly into his stomach. Colton’s team worked individually and together in daily therapy sessions, working on positioning, weight bearing, and trying to get muscle relaxation throughout his body. They also worked on his vision—getting him to follow objects with his eyes—and grasping toys.
The result was that Colton reached recovery milestones months ahead of schedule. His parents credit Children’s Care. “I think it’s because of Children’s Care—they’ve worked really hard with him,” says Doris. His primary nurse gives a lot of credit to his parents. “The attention he got not only from staff members, but also from his parents, made a huge difference in his recovery,” says Marci Osterkamp. “I think Colton really felt the security of his mom and dad being there.”
With his feeding and medication issues under control and a therapy program that was yielding results, Doris and Christian were able to take their only child home. His parents continued his therapies at home, and he received periodic sessions at home with therapists and a visiting nurse. To Colton’s parents, taking the drastic measures they did to be a part of his recovery was the natural thing to do. From the perspective of Children’s Care, it’s the best possible scenario; there’s nothing like a mother’s—and father’s love.
As Colton got older his family experienced many challenges maintaining his forward progress. Children’s Care was there to offer support and help. Eventually, Colton’s care became more than the family could sustain. Colton came to live at Children’s Care in Sioux Falls. “It is hard to leave him,” says his grandma Geraldine. “We visit him every month. He hasn’t forgotten us.” Colton’s father is in Iraq and visits whenever he is home on leave. His grandparents send regular notes on how Colton is doing and what progress he makes in his lessons and skill development.
Since coming to Children’s Care Hospital & School Colton has gained weight and is healthier. He has learned how to feed himself and is working on drinking from a cup. He is also learning to communicate through the use of picture symbols. In his free time Colton enjoys playing with switch-activated toys. He also likes looking at books and being read to by family, staff and volunteers. His grandparents are amazed at all he has learned in school. “Colton loves the playground and being outside,” says his grandfather Harold. “Children’s Care continues to make Colton’s educational and treatment plans individualized. They incorporate the family, his culture, and how he learns best,” says Geraldine.
Every day at Children’s Care we make children’s lives better – helping children learn how to feed themselves, say their first words, take their first steps – and we are blessed by the many friends, like you, who help us be there when special children and families need us. Thank you for remembering kids like Colton.
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