Monday, September 24, 2012

As Ethan Lipman drove towards the goal in his first ever little league soccer game, fans at the Marcus JCC cheered. Ethan Lipman of Team USA had defenders all around him as he dribbled from the right side of the goal. He kicked the ball with his foot as hard as he could in the direction of the small webbed white goal as I, his father, tried to stabilize my camera phone from behind the goal...Ethan did not score a goal that afternoon. He didn't need to score a goal for it to matter to Andrea and I nor the rest of our family.

To understand, you'd have to go back to August 12, 2008. That was the day that Ethan made another debut, his birth. Ethan was born that day with high expectations. I always wanted a boy who I could pass on all my sports knowledge to (most of it useless of course). I'd collected baseball cards for years so that one day I could pass them on to my son.

When Ethan Cole Lipman was born, we were so excited to welcome him to the world. Ethan was named after Andrea's father's father (her grandfather Erwin) and my mother's father (my grandfather Carl), both who were survivors of the Holocaust and had passed away several years ago. Ethan's Hebrew name was Zacharia Nissim which was after the fact that he was a miracle because of IVF and after my sister Wendy who we've raised so much money in her memory to cure cystic fibrosis.

Though we'd been so thrilled to welcome little Ethan, those hopes and dreams were soon shattered. Ethan was in NICU pretty soon after his birth because his oxygen levels were low and during one attempt in which Andrea tried to breast feed him, doctors informed me and Andrea that his oxygen levels had gone from 100% to 20% in a matter of seconds. They believed he was having seizures although Andrea and I still aren't sure that's what happened. What was confirmed was that Ethan had an infarct at birth which is a stroke that happens in the brain. Ethan had major brain damage on his left side which is notorious for affecting speech. Our doctor told us that Ethan had sustained quite a tremendous amount of loss in his left temporal lobe. We were devastated. He did not give Ethan a lot of hope nor any of us really. In a matter of moments, I e-mailed everyone to cancel Ethan's bris, a long-standing tradition for a Jewish family in which a baby boy is circumcised.

There is not a known reason why Ethan had an infarct. Just to give you an idea of how scary an infarct is, here is the Wikipedia definition which I soon looked up after the doctor revealed his diagnosis:

Cerebral infarction is the ischemic kind of stroke due to a disturbance in the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain. It can be atherothrombotic or embolic.[6] Stroke caused by cerebral infarction should be distinguished from two other kinds of stroke: cerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Cerebral infarctions vary in their severity with one third of the cases resulting in death.

Ethan was moved to Scottish Rite Children's Hospital a few days after he was born. We'd never been able to hold him in our arms in our own room. He'd never gotten off the wires that determined his levels. He was soon on an apnea monitor and seizure medication. High hopes for our son had turned into massive concern. Andrea and I were crying all of the time.

Still we believed in our son and thank God for Andrea. She investigated all of the possibilities concerning stem cells since she had been the one to save Ethan's cord blood. I, at the time, was having difficulty coping with this. I'd let my anxiety and depression get to me. I did not know how to handle all of this. Still I looked in my son's eyes and I believed he could get out of this; I just didn't know what to do to help him. I remembered hearing how my parents were told their son would not live to see his teens yet still here I was so I knew anything was possible.

Andrea did the grunt work and found a study at Duke University for a stem cell transplant. She contacted them and got Ethan into the study. I'm positive that if almost anyone else had been his mother, there is no way that Ethan would have been on a soccer field yesterday. Thank you Andrea for your hard work - it probably saved our son's life or at least his way of life.

Ethan received the stem cell transplant early in 2009 and has since overwhelmingly proved our doctor at Piedmont wrong. He is off seizure meds and has been so since a few months prior to his first birthday. He is no longer on an apnea monitor either. He is in speech therapy, which again Andrea was able to find him a case worker. He is speaking and is age equivalent in all areas. He goes to the neurologist annually and our doctor says unless you're looking for it, you can't tell which side is his weaker side. He now plays soccer and takes part in gymnastics.

It's hard to believe that it has been four plus years since that frightening day in 2008, the day we thought we'd lost our little boy. Now every time he dribbles the ball it doesn't matter if he loses focus and starts playing in the grass. It doesn't matter if someone steals the ball from him. It doesn't even matter if he scores a goal. What matters is that he is on this earth. He is healthy. I still have a load of baseball cards to give to him though right now he prefers Power Rangers and playing X-box college football.

On Sunday September 23rd, Ethan raced towards me with an opportunity to score yet still he did not score a goal...

he actually scored two. - here is the first goal of many. He later scored another goal and nearly a third.

Shortly after his first goal, Ethan gave me a high five. I'm not sure which leg he used to kick the ball in the goal. What I do know is that it doesn't matter because there will be plenty of more goals to see.

Never stop believing.



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