Miracles Still Happen -
The Miracle Continues
Aidan Pragasam, born on March 23, 1994
Birth of an angel
Miracles still happen and my son Aidan Pragasam, is a living miracle by me. Aidan turned 13 this year. He is a happy, cheerful, handsome boy who was diagnosed with Propionic Acidemia when he was 3 weeks old. Aidan had a difficult birth that was further complicated with a Steph infection when he was delivered. After spending in IICU during the first two weeks, he was released to us and everything seemed normal at that time. A few days later, we noticed that he seemed lethargic and inattentive with no inclination to feed. Repeated consultation with his pediatrician went no where and we were getting increasingly concerned that Aidan was fast approaching a comatose state. An unexpected call from the University of Pittsburgh that had screened Aidan’s blood for PKU revealed very high content and we were asked to rush Aidan immediately to the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Aidan was seen immediately by a team of experts led by Dr. Paige Kaplan and admitted into the IICU (again) and placed on IV. It was found that he had very high levels of ammonia in his system. After several blood /platelet transfusions and a stay in the IICU for three weeks, Aidan was declared out of immediate danger and moved to the general pediatric ward. He was held in the hospital for a few more weeks before being allowed to go home. During his first year of life, Aidan was repeatedly hospitalized several times and each time it was a traumatic experience for all of us. He had spent over seven months in the hospital during the first twelve months of his life. The second year was slightly better with hospital stays that lasted days instead of months.
During the first few years the going was tough on all of us. It was extremely difficult for Aidan as we observed several global delays in him and he was late in hitting every developmental milestone. He did not walk until he was three years old and was not verbal until he was six years old. Aidan had a regiment of therapies as he was growing up and even though the therapies have dwindled over the years, he still continues to receive therapy on a regular basis.
To put our ordeal into perspective, I have to give a little background on our life before Aidan. My husband Ravi migrated to the US from India for his graduate studies and I followed him here after our marriage. Aidan was born exactly a year after I came to the US. The culture shock, the extreme cold weather and the loneliness of leaving my family and loved ones behind, just added to the complexity of the situation. Our life together was an emotional roller coaster and we had no family or real friends who could offer support at these difficult times. We could not partake in social gatherings since we always ended up leaving early due to Aidan’s needs and as time went by, people started leaving us alone since they did not have the emotional maturity to understand our situation and offer support or they did not want to be bothered. We had no one to turn to except each other and this brought us closer to each other since we were committed to giving our son the best life possible and I found the purpose of my life revealed.
For me, Aidan was never just a child, he is an angel sent from heaven on a mission. I am not saying this because I am his mother, but because everyone who comes in contact with him says the same. There have been strangers who have walked up to me and said your child’s face is angelic. His cheerful childish ways and endurance to pain in the worst of situations and his pure love for people is a miracle by its own.
Aidan was 3 years old when we moved to San Jose California. After a year of difficulty finding a good team of doctors, we became members of Kaiser Permanente. He was back again with an excellent team of doctors and nutritionist. His nutritionist Elaina Jurecki however has been the lead in shaping Aidan into what he is today. Her insights, knowledge and expertise has been a godsend to us.
We also became very active in a South Asian organization called Jeena. This organization is a support organization for special need kids. The organization consisted of families with kids like us who were also looking for a social network and who had faced the same level of ostracization from their social peers and who were yearning to connect and share with others in a similar situation. The challenges that we faced as a family in the social front, led me to play an active part in establishing this organization along with its founder. Having a special need child and coming from a different country/culture provided many challenges. And having no family in the country made it essential to develop a network of dependable friends who could empathize and offer both emotional and physical support at the time of need. In this process we have met many good people and made many good friends. We had found our bearings and with the passing of years we have formed stable friendships that could last a lifetime.
Aidan has been attending a special education school in San Jose. He was with the same Elementary school teacher/classroom for almost 5 years. He grew very attached to his teacher and it was also very difficult for his teacher to let him go. When he graduated from the elementary school she sent him off to middle school with a brand new Mac computer, a collection of software that can last a lifetime and books on several subjects that would serve a whole classroom full of kids. He is settling down slowly in his new school and adjusting to his new teacher. His new friends have taken to him well and are very fond of him.
Besides school, he goes to Score Computer Based learning center. He is very computer savvy and knows his way around with PC games and software. He loves web surfing and his current favorite is Youtube where he watches his favorite TV theme songs such as Barney, Teletubbies, Scooby-Doo, Jeopardy, Wheel Of Fortune over and over again. He also goes swimming and attends gym classes in Jeena.
Aidan has a younger brother Brenden who is 9 years old and who adores him. Aidan loves having his brother around. The beginning challenges we had in devoting equal amount of attention to both kids got easier as years went by. We have now learnt to balance our time and life between the two kids and also our careers. We also have a great nanny who helps us in taking care of the kids. We are able to travel places and do things that normal children do, like visiting theme parks, going to shows, going for bike rides etc. Aidan is finally able to ride a bike after so many years. This is a specially made bike with three wheels and pedals designed for children with physical difficulties. He wears braces to provide ankle support and uses a wheel chair when we go on long walks or have to travel to unknown places. He is very interested in music and dancing. He especially enjoys Indian music. He has an incredible sense of rhythm and it amazes me when I see him move to the beat even if he cannot use his legs very well. I often catch him dancing to music in front of the mirror. He has also participated in dances and performs in Jeena’s annual day celebrations.
Successful completion of a decade
He continues to be a miracle since his doctors gave us a very discouraging prognosis about his survival during the initial years of his life. So when he turned 11, I decided to publish a website for him. His website has brought in many contacts internationally and helps me keep in contact with people who have children with the same disorder in the far corners of the world, where they are not blessed with the quality treatment we get here.
Working towards a cure – the Fundraiser
I am a professional classical dancer and coupled with Aidan’s interest in Indian music and dance along with my husband’s and parents support, I decided to start an Indian dance school. The dance school has grown today quite a bit. Aidan completed 13 years this year and that made me believe that something needed to be done to raise awareness of this very rare disorder that even sounds alien to most pediatricians and medical professionals. Awareness is essential to raise funds and a CURE is needed to help our children. And it has to happen right now so that we can see some benefit from it during our lifetime. To keep the research going, we need funds. Being involved in a non-profit organization made me realize how hard it is to get a grant approved or to get donations coming in. So this year I decided to conduct a fundraiser for PA Foundation keeping in mind all my goals in increasing awareness and raising funds. My family supported me in this effort especially my kids and my husband.
Along with the students and parents of my dance school we put together a dance performance and a fundraiser on May 12th 2007. My friends helped me by putting up a silent auction and volunteering their time and energy for the several tasks involved in making the event successful. The event was a huge success. It was attended by almost 500 people. Elaina Jurecki, Aidan’s nutritionist gave a presentation for about 20 minutes on the topic of PA and why funds were necessary to conduct research looking or a cure for this rare and devastating disorder. To many of the audience it was a revelation that such a disorder existed. There was no admission ticket charge and all the funds were raised through donations and the silent auction, was donated to the PA foundation for research. People not only donated during the event, but also several days after the event had taken place. Funds close to $3500 was raised during the event which has been sent to the PA foundation. In addition to the fundraising, there was quite a bit of media coverage on the event and its cause. But I believe that this is just the beginning. With my angel at my side, I am hoping to continue to contribute in whatever small way possible to help support this miracle and keep it alive. I have faith and belief that before long we will see the day when all our children will be CURED.
Yes, the miracle still lives and will continue to thrive!!
Mom to Aidan and Brenden Pragasam
For more information on Aidan’s Journey visit Aidan’s website: http://www.freewebs.com/aidanpragasam/index.htm
Aidan's Story is featured in the Fall 2007 Newsletter.
You can check out Aidan's website by clicking here.