Eli Cooper’s Story
Eli is our 8-year-old son, who is autistic and non-verbal as well as physically handicapped. The first 18 months of his life, Eli appeared to be typically developing in every way except speech. His pediatrician wanted to start some speech therapy, and that’s where our journey began. We kept thinking, “Oh, boys are slower learners; he will get it,” but it never came. Then, we dove head first into play therapy, speech therapy, specialized preschool for developmentally delayed toddlers – anything we could to keep him engaged and going in the right direction.
February of 2013, Eli became ill, and we weren’t sure what was wrong. This is the worst kind of spot to be in when your child is non-verbal. We didn’t know what was hurting nor what we could do to help. So, his dad took him to the emergency room, and they sent them home saying it was a stomach bug. The next morning, Eli was unresponsive, and we rushed him back to the ER. I thought being told your child is autistic was difficult, but watching our 6-year-old being rushed into trauma and a breathing tube inserted was horrible! I couldn’t breath, and our world was caving.
The doctors told us that he had a life-threatening, bacterial meningitis. In the first week of being in the pediatric intensive care unit and in a medically induced coma, doctors told us that he was having strokes and seizures and that the pressure in his brain was too high to survive. Then, after he appeared to come through the worst of it, they said, he would probably be a vegetable, or at least blind and deaf, requiring a respirator.
We just kept praying against everything they said, and after two long years of overcoming so much, Eli is back to his “normal” mentally and mostly physically, but his spinal cord injury caused to the meningitis has left him a wheel chair. However, with the help of leg braces and weekly physical therapy sessions, he’s attempting to learn to walk again. Praise God!
Eli would love and could greatly benefit from a service dog! The only things our son used to love to do was to run and jump. Since he’s been handicapped, he’s begun hurting himself mostly due to frustration from his new limits. We feel a service dog could provide comfort and pressure to help reduce self injury, help him keep his balance as he walks, help prevent wandering and rolling away from us, and offer emotional support for his anxiety with doctor appointments and hospital visits including weekly therapy sessions.
We are so very grateful that you would consider supporting us and Ady’s Army in raising money for a service dog for our sweet boy!
Tony, Julie, Sophie and Eli