CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Friday night in the newsroom. Going through emails and stop to re-read the update about Cooper Burrell three times.
We first met Cooper on January 25th (read here >> http://tinyurl.com/CooperMKs). This 15-year-old in Clover, South Carolina, battles SMARC B1 deficient, poorly-differentiated chordoma, Stage 3. An aggressive subtype of head/neck cancer.
Three days after that original post, Cooper met his neurosurgeon. His mom said their conversation didn’t go as they had hoped.
“The neurosurgeon said Cooper will have surgery on March 4th to completely seal off the left vertebral artery,” said mom Tracey Burrell. “We knew that might be coming. But we didn’t know that wouldn’t be his only procedure. He’ll also have a surgery the next day. In that one, they’ll go in through the back of his head to remove C1, C2, C3, C4, and possibly C5. They want to put plates and rods in his neck, along with fillers. The following Monday, March 8th, there will be a third procedure. They’ll either go in through the back of his throat or the side of the neck to remove the tumors. The beginning of March will be very stressful for him, and us, as his family.”
“But Cooper is tough. He is very brave. He amazes me every day.”
Depending on swelling, Cooper may be intubated for a day or two. He’ll wear a neck brace for at least eight weeks. He’ll have a tube for feeding. And, he’ll probably only ever have about 20% of range of motion in his neck again.
“They said there are organizations that will modify a car for him,” Tracey said. “We’ll have to look into those because he won’t be able to turn his neck very much to drive in typical fashion.”
If you read the first post about Cooper, you might remember he’s learning to drive. He’s in the 10th grade, and loves cars. This news about a future vehicle and range of neck motion is difficult news.
If you read that post, you might also remember that Tracey is an ER nurse. She never thought her professional background would help her process a rare diagnosis for her son. But the facts -- even tough ones -- are things Tracey said she wants to share directly.
“It’s not useful to cushion this,” she said. “We’ll get through it. But pretending it’s not hard doesn’t help.”
Something easy for Tracey to talk about? The intense support for Cooper from Clover High School.
“His Spanish teacher set up a GoFundMe,” she said. “The school had a Valentine’s Day fundraiser for him, and the AFJROTC is having a Taco Tuesday benefit with Moe’s Southwest Grill on February 23rd. Everyone at the school has been amazing to my family. Also, Moped To Memphis matched the GoFundMe when we got the $5000 goal.”
[NOTE: Whoever is in charge of the Taco Tuesday event, feel free to post details below in comments. That way anyone reading from the Clover area will know how to help support.]
“This entire community has really stepped up to help us,” Tracey said. “Our whole family is appreciative. Right now, it’s just one day at a time.”