Orange Grove Elementary Charter rallies to help seriously ill student
Watching over D.J.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Alan Hawes // The Post and Courier
Orange Grove Elementary Charter School teacher Laura Meseck visits with D.J. Cohen in his room at the Pediatric ICU at MUSC Childrens’ Hospital on Wednesday.
Laura Meseck couldn't bear the thought of 7-year-old D.J. Cohen being alone in the intensive care unit.
D.J. has a genetic immune disease that causes his body to fight against itself. His whole body can shut down with exposure to infection, and he lives on a host of machines and medicines.
Despite his condition, D.J. felt well enough most days this year to go to school, where Meseck teaches him first grade. The animated boy with the broad smile and sweet demeanor charmed his way into her heart, along with the rest of the faculty and staff at Orange Grove Elementary Charter. Everyone knows him, and everyone loves him.
On May 5, D.J. started having trouble breathing. His mom, Chantel Bass, rushed him to the hospital, and doctors put him on life support. No one knew whether he'd survive.
His mom remained at his side as much as she could, but the responsibility of her five other children, two of whom have special needs, prevented her from staying around the clock.
Meseck knew the family's situation, and her heart broke to think of D.J. regaining consciousness in an empty room. So she did what came naturally, and the next day -- her day off -- she went to the hospital.
It became a part of her routine. She spent her days in the classroom and nights at MUSC Children's Hospital. The long hours were tough, and her co-workers noticed. They asked how they could help, and one person volunteered to take a shift sitting with D.J.
Another person wondered whether they could do the same, and then another. After a few days, about a dozen Orange Grove Elementary Charter staff members were taking part in this bedside vigil.
They went after school and on the weekends, from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Meseck, who has a part-time job bartending at downtown Trio on the weekends, would go to the hospital before her shift then work until the early morning hours.
D.J. wasn't awake most of the time, but it didn't stop the school's staff from talking to him or reading him books. They held his hand and rubbed his arm. They prayed for him, gave him cards and posters from his classmates, and showed him the video the school made for him.
They did what they could for his family, too, donating gas cards to make the trips to the hospital a little easier.
For D.J.'s mother, the support has been overwhelming and a relief.
"It was pure comfort," she said. "It just felt like I was being rescued and wasn't alone. They're like little angels. And Mrs. Meseck, she's a true angel."
The entire school came together to root for her son, and she believes it's made a difference in her son's surprising turnaround.
D.J. came out of intensive care this week, and he's been eating, getting out of his hospital bed, and playing. He smiled when Meseck came by for a visit, grinning at her jokes about his loose tooth and nodding in response to her questions.
"He literally fought his way back to life," Meseck said. "He is a miracle."
Mrs. Meseck says that Dennis likes this too!!!