Dying twice and surviving is not something that most people can brag about. For Nicko, it’s a statement he’s proud to proclaim.
Being born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus was only the beginning for Nicko and his parents. At only two days old he underwent his first surgery, a kyphectomy, where three vertebrae were removed. A few days later on his fifth day of life, he underwent his second surgery and stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 20 days with a shunt tube in his head leading down to his abdomen to drain fluid. The surgeries both resulted in an excessive amount of blood loss, meaning that Nicko’s only chance of making a comeback was to fight for his life at only a few days old. As worrisome as the situation was, his parents watched as their newborn began to show signs of progression.
“The first couple surgeries that he went through were so frightening,” says his mom Heather. “The amount of blood loss is what shook us the most, but now Nicko is quite proud to say he pulled through and we couldn’t be more grateful for the specialized care he received during that time.”
For the next three months, he was unable to lay on his back and had to wear a back brace that he likes to call his ‘turtle shell’. He spent time recovering until he was a year old before beginning orthopedics in Saskatoon. Nicko was also born with a club foot which required his first foot surgery to take place when he was around three years old.
Following this, he was admitted to hospital twice for dental surgery along with two additional visits for his broken femur on one leg and a broken tibia on the other. While Nicko and his family travel to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton yearly, he also visits the hospital in Saskatoon for follow-ups, blood work and x-rays while also frequently visiting physio/occupational therapy for checkups.
Having gone back and forth between Edmonton and Saskatoon, Nicko especially knows the difference between a children’s hospital and a regular care centre. A facility that is accommodating and ‘kid-friendly’ is primarily what helps Nicko and his family to keep a positive attitude. Since travelling to a different city creates a sense of unease and unfamiliarity, Nicko’s family had some difficulty feeling situated. What stood out the most about feeling comfortable in a children’s hospital, however, was the fact that Nicko’s experience was tailored towards his interests, including his favourite cartoons and animals. His parents always see him put his best foot forward no matter what the situation is and despite any travel requirements.
“His determination to keep afloat even while being in an obscure environment is what makes him an absolute trooper. It brings comfort and relief to us as parents to see him so in tune with protocols and procedures while taking on his medical challenges”, says Heather.
Being a kid who loves history, Nicko has a profound history of his own and reaches breakthroughs after each checkup. Now ten years old, he doesn’t let anything stop him from enjoying his favourite things, whether it is sports, playing the ukulele, going to school or spending time with family.