THE KDK REPORT: Not all heroes wear capes...


PSYCHOLOGISTS have long proposed that the reason we love comic book superheroes is because we all secretly desire to be the heroes of our own lives.

As in sports, it’s both exhilarating and morally satisfying to watch the underdog win against all odds.

This, I believe, is because we often feel held down traversing day to day through a bottom-heavy corporatist society leaving us feeling that we have little or no control over the big things that happen in the world. We cannot change culture or finance or even our immediate surroundings.

But heroes rise up, jump out in front, then fight against the wrongs of society even if for a moment in time. And, in doing so, are celebrated for their efforts.

Legendary comic book writer Stan Lee, creator of beloved superheroes like Black Panther, X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Hulk and Spider-Man, often stated that anyone can win a fight when the odds are easy. But, if you can win when it seems impossible, those are the times that matter and those are the heroes we can all believe in.

My patient, hereafter referred to as Tony, certainly understands what it means to have the cards stacked against you and still walk through the turmoil, battle scars in hand, yet heroically triumphant. What makes his story all the more remarkable is that he fought his battle when he was just nine-months old.

Tony was in utero for 42 weeks, half-a-month longer than the typical gestation period. Normal vaginal delivery wasn’t an option because Tony’s umbilical cord was wrapped so tightly around his neck that any slight movement on his part could have easily strangled him so doctors induced labour. All seemed well until one week after his birth when his mother suffered a near-fatal seizure in hospital.

Physicians ran to her aid as she coded and life rapidly drained from her body. Fortunately, she was resuscitated in time by her own team of real-life superheroes. But much like in the comics, their job was far from over.

Over the next few months, Tony thrived. He exhibited some mild developmental delays, like being slower to crawl than his older brother, but he was a happy baby. He loved to laugh and dance and he loved to hug everyone, even strangers.

He suffered with asthma and chronic sinus issues, constantly being plagued by colds and allergens, but for the most part he was healthy and his medical morbidities were successfully controlled with anti-histamines, cold meds and a nebulizer.

Then, without warning, when he was nine-months old, he began leaning back every time he was held. He never cried or complained to indicate that something was wrong, but he didn’t like to remain in an upright position for an extended period of time.

It seemed innocuous enough to be considered a mild peculiarity so his parents dismissed it. With great care, they’d always hold his back firmly expecting that as soon as they picked him up, he’d fling his body backwards and elongate his stomach.

Then one night, their normally calm and happy baby wouldn’t stop crying. He cried off and on for several hours. Absolutely nothing worked to appease his distress. He was so lethargic and distressed that they knew something was seriously wrong so they rushed him to the emergency room.

All standard tests came back normal but Tony was started on a course of antibiotics just in case he had an underlying infection.

His mother was advised to take him to see his paediatrician first thing in the morning. Unaware of what caused him to suddenly become so irritable, that night she couldn’t sleep and laid awake worried about what could be wrong.

At the first sign of light, she got up and checked on Tony once again before making herself some breakfast.

Then, at half past seven, she removed Tony’s blanket to get him ready to see his paediatrician. In doing so, to her unimaginable horror, she saw that his pamper was soaked with a lake of dark red blood.

Tony was quiet and barely moved when normally he’d be holding onto the rails of his crib and dancing.

His mother panicked, her heart pounding like fists to a drum and skipping beats erratically. She initially screamed but quickly blunted her emotions so that Tony wouldn’t become alarmed.

She quickly called his paediatrician and he told her to take him to the hospital, with his pamper secured for inspection, immediately. He arranged to meet them there.

She grabbed both of her kids and on the way, she called her husband, crying, emotional and without the necessary words to express her fear. But he didn’t need any words because he could deduce the seriousness of the situation amidst her disjointed outbursts and panicked pauses.

At the hospital, they were notified that Tony had a severe intestinal obstruction, confirmed via an abdominal ultrasound.

Tony’s mother subsequently learned through her own research that Tony’s small intestine was genetically inverted into his large intestine and the perforation in his intestinal wall caused the bleeding.

His doctors never confirmed what caused him to develop this blockage, only stating that his situation was critical and without treatment he could die.

Tony underwent surgery that night. He and his mother were wheeled down to the operating theatre and once they got to the door, she had to hand him over to the nurse and then wait in their room on the paediatric’s floor until his surgery was over. She feared the worst but her husband, mother and extended family soothed her anxieties and together prayed for a miracle.

Miraculously, Tony survived. A feeding tube was inserted from his nose to his stomach because he couldn’t eat by mouth. He had a fever for several days post operatively and nurses constantly came in to tap him on his back. At the same time, as his mother regularly applied Vaseline to his dry lips, she tried not to show her own sadness when she saw how he looked at her, expressionless with sad eyes.

She desperately longed to hold him in her arms but because of the feeding tube, she couldn’t. Not until it was removed after five days. When she finally did, a mountain of fear fell off her shoulders.

Tony was released from the hospital after one week and recovered at home another two weeks after that, with frequent visits to his paediatrician’s office.

Now aged 19, he still has the scar from his navel to his mid-stomach, some seven inches long, to adequately remind him of the fight that nearly cost him his life.

He doesn’t remember that time at all, apart from what he’s been told by his parents. But it’s in part made him love superheroes, especially those created by Stan Lee like Black Panther and Iron Man, because of the super human internal strength it took for him to survive and the real-life heroes like his parents and doctors who helped him to do so.

Fathers are also often over-looked but the steady guidance that Tony’s father provided and his calm, focused support shepherded their entire family through the storm. But it was his mother who jumped in front of his bus and flew to unimaginable heights.

Mothers are often unsung heroes but, in this case, her heroism cannot be overstated. The fact that she’d taken Tony to the hospital the night before, meant that doctors didn’t need to repeat unnecessary tests and were able to diagnose him much more quickly, at a time when every second mattered.

His mother stresses that the lesson everyone should take from this story is that you have to follow your instincts and if they tell you to act, do so. Take the risk that you may be overreacting, but there is an equal chance that you can also be the hero who saves someone’s life.

Tony’s mother dreads to consider what may have happened if she hadn’t been vigilant and opted to take her son to see his compassionate, quick to react, paediatrician that morning rather than letting him sleep a while longer.

To this day, she continues to pray that both her sons and children all around the world will always have strength throughout their body, peace in their mind, love in their heart and boundless, incalculable, joy within their soul.

And for the times they don’t, through prayer and God’s mercy, there are heroes nearby ready and willing to save them.

This is the KDK Report.


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