Energy to Burn
Staying active despite complicated condition
It was a rocky start to life for young Aiden. Fevers, infections, and chronic congestion led him to Children’s Hospital. Through early treatment, regular follow-up, and frequent physiotherapy, Aiden now leads a normal life and gives back however he can to Children’s Hospital. He doesn’t love the physio, but knows that it helps him. I just “gotta suck it up and do it,” he says.
“…the staff never seem to mind. They come and visit with him and talk to him. Everyone is so nice.”
Although the extent wasn’t immediately known, Tammy Anderson suspected early on that her baby boy had some challenges. Nine years later, mini-superhero Aiden was named the 2014–2015 Champion Child (presented by Walmart). Today, he raises funds for Children’s Hospital Foundation through Ella & Aiden’s Lemonade stand; and he serves as an ambassador for the Foundation by speaking at events.
Despite some persistent health challenges, he has the energy and enthusiasm to lend a hand – thanks to the care he received at Children’s Hospital.
“Aiden was very, very colicky and a bit of a fussy baby, but our daughter Ella, who was just 21 months older than him, was the complete opposite,” recalls Tammy. “He was a horrible sleeper, he couldn’t lie flat, he didn’t want a soother, his nose ran constantly, and we thought ‘what’s going on?’”
Tammy and her husband Blake took Aiden’s differences in stride, managing occasional fevers until the day things became a bit more serious.
“When he was about eight-months-old we were in the car at a stoplight and he just started screaming in the back of the van,” remembers Tammy. “So I jumped in the back and he was just soaking wet with such a high fever. When we got him to Children’s Emergency they told us he had a double ear infection, so that was the first round of antibiotics he was put on. From then on it just seemed to be that more often than not he had ear infections. So Aiden had tubes put in his ears just after he turned one.”
Then, Aiden began having lung infections. This resulted in more trips to the doctor. In fact, it seemed that Aiden’s nose never stopped running, and he was chronically congested. Tests for allergies and asthma both came back negative.
When Aiden was four, he was given back-to-back rounds of antibiotics for lung infections, and the doctors decided a chest x-ray was in order to see just how well Aiden was fighting the infection. That x-ray would finally provide Aiden’s family with some answers.
Tammy remembers the phone call vividly.
“They called me the next day and said ‘your son has situs inversus with dextrocardia’, and I thought ‘what the heck is this, is this common?’” she recalls.
Situs inversus with dextrocardia is a condition where all of your organs are reversed from their normal positions. The condition itself can actually be fairly benign and, without complications, can go undetected unless discovered in a chest x-ray. Aiden however did experience complications, and was also diagnosed with Kartagener with bronchiectasis which affects his lungs, and results in perpetual airway congestion. Aiden’s condition, with all of his extra considerations, occurs approximately once in every 130,000 births.
Subsequent testing ruled out cystic fibrosis as well as any heart complications, and the Andersons could focus on Aiden’s treatment, which includes physiotherapy twice a day.
“That is the one thing that moves secretions along so Aiden is able to cough them up, or else they just sit there and it’s the perfect place for a germ to slip in, and then Aiden is sick again,” explains Tammy.
Luckily the twice-daily physiotherapy can be done at home, thanks to the amazing staff at Children’s Hospital.
“There’s an awesome physiotherapist at the hospital Linda, whom we now just see annually. She trained us from the beginning,” says Tammy. “We went in there several times and she taught us how to do different pummeling on Aiden. She also taught us different breathing techniques. Physio is the one thing we can do to affect Aiden’s health, and it has actually improved since his diagnosis.”
Even with the active life of a young boy, Aiden makes time for his physiotherapy. It is something Aiden will have to do every day for the rest of his life.
“It’s sometimes a little annoying,” says Aiden, “but I know it’s what’s best for me so I’ve just gotta suck it up and do it.”
Aiden currently takes medication to help ward off bugs, and makes regular visits to the hospital to see his respirologist, and an ear, nose, and throat specialist. With the numerous visits to specialists, surgeries, and stays at Children’s Hospital, the Andersons know firsthand what an incredible place it is.
“When Aiden gets admitted with pneumonia, which has happened a few times, he’s put into isolation right away, so everyone has to mask, gown, and glove to come into his room. It’s so time consuming,” says Tammy, “but the staff never seem to mind. They come and visit with him and talk to him. Everyone is so nice.”
With all he’s been through Aiden has wisdom beyond his years, particularly when it comes to spending time in the hospital.
“It can be complicated, it can be scary, it can be all different kinds of things….but it’s to make you better. They’re just trying to make you better,” says Aiden.
Tammy also has a deep appreciation for Children’s Hospital.
“Children’s Hospital has such a sense of community,” she says. “It sounds weird, but whenever Aiden is discharged I kind of think I’m not ready to go. It’s such a safe place for him. It’s such a team.”
Although Aiden will never outgrow his condition, it doesn’t affect his life expectancy and certainly doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for karate, swimming, biking, video games, and all of the other fun stuff this amazing boy loves to do.