The literal meaning of Matthew means “the gift of God”. Matthew Donald Erickson was sure named accurately.
I am going to attempt to write a bit about Matthew. I know I will leave a ton out, but I hope to give everyone reading this post the gift of knowing a bit about Matthew. A miraculous baby who has touched so many lives and continues to pull at our heart strings daily. A family who has been through something that no family should EVER have to go through. A baby who was born with something that no baby should EVER have to even know. A baby who has been given incredible strength and perseverance by the grace of God.
This is the story of Matthew Donald Erickson. He was the first child chosen for my “give back” segment.
From the very beginning, Matthew’s family knew he was going to be special. Mom found out that there was “something” going on in that pretty little head of his, and they assumed he may of had a stroke in utero, or possible fluid on his brain. What they DIDN’T know, was that Matthew actually had formed whats called a neural glioma; one of the (if not THE) most rapid spreading types of brain cancer a human can have.
A human. Hes a BABY. A baby born with brain cancer. Matthews tumor was not small, it was actually very large, covering a large portion of the right side of his brain. The doctors told his family that less that 5 babies are born with cancer in this country every year. Less than 5 babies. Those odds will make anyone cry. How unfair that a baby who has never even entered this world be poisoned with this rapid growing cancer.
I am one of faith. Not everyone reading this is, so I apologize in advance if I talk too much about it, but with Matthew and his family, it’s an extremely integral part of their lives as well, so I have to at least bring it up :). When something horrible and unfair happens to someone, there are many people who would turn their backs on God and ask “why” or “how”. WHY God did you do this to my child. If there is a God, HOW would He allow this to happen to an innocent baby and amazing family. When I lost my little sister of course those thoughts ran though my mind as well. It’s normal. When talking with Sue (Erickson), Matthew’s mother, she told me, “Emily, we know this happened to us for a reason. We know that God trusted this child to us because we could handle his situation.” They didn’t turn their back on God, they turned it towards Him. The Erickson’s faith has been unwavering, been strengthened, and in turn strengthened the faith of others around them. We have all see Matthew start to defy the odds the doctors gave him when he was born. Everyone is starting to recognize the power of prayer. This lil guy is proving to be God’s mini soldier and as I write this, there is a GIANT smile on my face knowing it :).
I will give a quick recap of Matthews 10 weeks of life. 10 weeks. He has only been alive 10 weeks and has gone through more than anyone should have to in a life time.
Matthew was born on December 11th, 2011. He has a big brother Nolan (who just turned 5 last week) as well as a big sister Sophia (18 months). His amazing grandma (as we all know as Nunny) and grandpa (Papa) also live with the Erickson’s.
As I said before, his mom and dad knew there was something going on, but never in a million years did they think brain cancer. When Matthew was born, the doctors told his parents that they had two choices. They could give Matthew some medicine to become comfortable and pass away at home, or they could fight. Well, they decided to fight. Fighting would entail lots of scary moments, lots of crying, lots of praying, lots of eating on Matthews part and ultimately, if he could get strong enough, Chemotherapy. That was the goal; Chemo. The Erickson’s needed to get Matthew strong enough to fight.
At 4 days old Matthew had his first brain surgery. They took some fluid off of his brain as well as removed a portion of the tumor. The surgery went well, only leaving him with mild seizures (typical after brain surgery) as well as him favoring the right side of his body. As time went on, Matthew was able to more readily engage his left side and eventually almost totally lost his right sided dominance. All huge milestones.
A few weeks later Matthew caught RSV, as if brain cancer was not enough for this little guy. But in true Matthew form, he fought it.
Sue and I decided that it was a good time for me to come take some photos of the family. We wanted to take them before he went to the hospital in 3 days for his second brain surgery, and then hopefully Chemo. I have attached some highlights of our afternoon. It was a very casual shoot, just photographing Matthew hanging out with the people who love him the most. Little did I realize how much I would fall in love with Matthew and his family. It was like hanging out with old friends. I could of stayed all day.
On February 14th (Valentines Day), Matthew had his second brain surgery. He was all set to go in and have some more fluid removed off of his brain. When the amazing Dr. Alden from Children’s hospital went in, he also ended up removing a substantial part of Matthews tumor as well. A VERY large portion. So large that on his last MRI it looked itty bitty. Keep in mind that surgery to remove the tumor was never part of Matthews original fighting plan, just Chemo. Praise God.
Matthew did well with his surgery. He went through it like the rockstar that he is. It has not been an easy week, however. After he was in recovery for a bit and started to wake up, the screaming started. They could not get him to stop screaming. Matthew does not cry. Ever. So mom knew something was up. They gave him 5 doses of morphine, nothing. Performed a CAT scan to check for bleeding the the brain. Nothing. They finally ran an EKG and found out he was having seizures. What mom had guessed he had been having all along. Sometimes moms just know. It took quite some time and two different medicines to get his seizures under control. Some of his seizures would last 25 minutes. I am sure those were the longest 25 minutes of his families lives. They finally stopped that evening and “nunny” reached out to all of Matthews followers on Facebook to pray as he was going to be in a lot of pain when the 5 doses of Morphine wore off.
Matthew continued to have Cat Scans as well as lots of other tests as his numbers were off as well as his pupils not responding. They waited and waited for days for Matthew to wake up. All of the seizures, surgery and morphine had the little guy VERY sleepy.
Throughout the days of waiting for Matthew to come around, mom said things like “my heart is heavy”. For all who have been following him we say our hearts are heavy too, but not like hers. I can’t imagine a stronger mother than Sue. Our hearts were all heavy for HER.
Two days later Matthew had still not woken up and had another seizure. His Nunny was there when it happened. He was foaming from the mouth and ended up coding (his heart stopped). Nunny told me right then and there she got on her knees and started to pray. She called Sue who is staying nearby to let her know she needed to get there. They described the scene to me out of a movie. It’s crazy that happened to a tiny little baby in real life. All they had to do to revive him was incredible. But they did and that’s all that matters. We would all find out that morning that Matthew had had that giant seizure. Sue later said on Face Book :“I never knew that running 2 blocks could take so long. Walked into the room to a team of medical staff surrounding Matthew, working on him. I can’t tell you the fear that came over me. He just had an x-ray, he is getting his CT Scan to make sure he is not bleeding from the brain. They are checking his sodium levels, too. Please continue to pray for my boy. I knew when I walked into the room and fell into the chair that people all over were praying for Matthew at that very moment along side me and I was overcome with peace. Thank you prayer warriors.”
Sadly enough, the seizures didn’t stop there. Instead of recreating it, here is another post from Sue :“Matthew had another seizure that lasted about 25 minutes. After two different meds he was able to come out of the seizure. He is on a ventilator and is being given blood and lots of different fluid replacements. He is having an EEG to monitor seizure activity and he will have the MRI later today. There is some bleeding in his brain that they are monitoring–worst case scenario is that his body does not break down the blood on its own and he will have to undergo another surgery. Please keep the prayers coming.”
Well the prayers have not stopped and Matthew has continued his climb. He did end up having another 25 minute seizure as well as a smaller one after that as well, but they have since stopped. Matthew has been seizure free since February 18th. He has had a very high heart rate (reaching 200 at times) as well as very high blood pressure (reaching 190/90 at times). They are still trying to get his numbers regulated so he can start Chemo as early as even next week. At this time they are taking everything day by day as he still resides in the PICU. As of now it looks like he’s having some problems with his sodium. On a VERY happy note, his ventilator has been removed, his EVD (drain in his head to remove fluids) has been pulled and hes drinking from a bottle! All huge milestones for Matthew.
When Matthew was nice and stable I needed to go see him. I brought his family the CD of images I had taken pre surgery and of course brought my camera along as well. How could I leave home without it? :). Take a peek at how Matthew is doing today. These were taken on February 22nd, 2012. When I walked in the room and saw him I about cried. I could not believe how different he looked. He had a light in his eyes that made my heart melt. His head was so much smaller and he looked like he was ready to get the heck out of there! He was getting some blood to help lower his blood pressure (sodium problems) and when I left his BP was back at 140/80. Amazing. This little guy is nothing short of a miracle.
I have been so blessed to of been introduced to the Erickson family. They have touched my life in a way that I will never be able to put into words. The strength and faith of the Erickson family is something that everyone should strive for in life. I will continue to keep everyone updated on Matthew on my Facebook page. You can also go join Matthew on his Facebook page as well, as he has a huge amazing following and mom and nunny are always updating it.A few fun facts:
Nunny is addicted to words with friends. Its hilarious.
Sue is the strongest mother I have met in my entire life.
Ben (Matthews father) works at a school that has been AMAZING to them.
Nolan and Sophia each have super fun personalities and love their little brother immensely, They have gone through a lot as well not having their mom around.
Papa just makes me laugh. He’s great.
The photo with Sue and Matthew holding hands, Ben gave that necklace to Sue. They called the tube on Matthews head a halo after his first surgery. Her necklace is Matthews halo.
Matthew has one full “Beads of Courage” necklace. Each bead represents something a cancer patient has endured. He could of filled up more by now if they were following it to a “t”.
Matthew LOVES to eat.
The Ronald McDonald house ROCKS.
The entire Erickson family is full of love and we have noting but love for all of them.
“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13