Colton Hasebe is a fairly normal boy, living in a fairly normal house in North Delta.
He has two sisters, a baby brother and a sunny disposition. He likes to read novels, although he’s branched into some books on coding, and he enjoys playing with Lego.
In his Grade 6 class at Richardson Elementary, he’s about average. Writing is difficult for him — he finds it hard to think of what to say — but he has no trouble explaining his plan for creating a video game similar to Super Smash Bros, only with a brawl element.
Perhaps the only indication Colton is not exactly typical is the tremor in his hands when he uses fine motor skills or the slight slurring of his speech when he talks.
They are the result of a brain injury he suffered nearly a year and a half ago caused by an asthma attack.
A week before Christmas, 2015, Colton was having some trouble with his asthma. Around 3 a.m., his dad Kevin Hasebe drove him down to BC Children’s Hospital.
Just after Colton walked himself into the emergency room, he collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.
His heart didn’t beat for 15 minutes.
Colton stayed in the intensive care unit for 10 days, until he was able to once again breathe on his own.
“Once they took him off the sedation, that’s when we noticed his deficiencies,” Rachel Hasebe, Colton’s mom, said.
His words were slurred and his body was weakened — the result of the sedation, she thought.
“But after a day or so it should have worn off and it really hadn’t,” she said. “He couldn’t move, he couldn’t even lift his head. Anything.”
This was because his brain, deprived of oxygen for those 15 minutes, was swelling. The swelling increased for a week, resulting in the blindness, loss of speech and loss of strength.
“I do have memories of being in that car being transported to Sunny Hill [Health Centre for Children]. But for some reason I felt like I was in England or something,” Colton said. “I also felt like I was around the beach area somewhere.
“I must have been having some weird hallucinations.”
Hallucinations were one of the effects of his brain injury. Once, his grandparents mentioned snakes — one of Colton’s phobias.
“It felt like I could see a snake and got super scared.”
He would randomly scream out or see strange things, Rachel said. He got angry when his two younger sisters would come visit because they made too much noise.
“In the first few weeks [we didn’t know] if he would recover, how long it would take for him to recover, whether he would recover fully, partially,” Kevin said. “We had no idea.”
Recovery isn’t something the doctors can predict. Even with an MRI that looks promising, patients can end up with severe disabilities.
But in only a month, Colton managed to relearn all the necessary skills he needed to walk out of Sunny Hill.
“I said I was going to run out of Sunny Hill but I don’t think I actually did,” he said.
“They wouldn’t let you run,” Rachel laughed. “But you walked out of there.”
Colton does have some permanent brain damage, but he was lucky. If he had been years older, his brain would have lacked the plasticity it needed to rewire itself.
Colton’s experience was “kind of like out of a movie,” Rachel said.
“Even the doctor says this sort of thing doesn’t happen. Maybe once or twice in their career.
“So for them to have actually been able to save his life — like, he really shouldn’t have made it. We wanted to be able to give back to them.”
The Hasebe family put together a fundraiser in November 2016 for BC Children’s Hospital, asking their friends and family to donate money so they could present a cheque to the emergency department on the anniversary of Colton’s asthma attack.
The family raised close to $4,000, but set a $10,000 goal. That’s when Colton’s school joined in with the fundraiser.
To date, through their online platform for donations, they’ve managed to increase the total to more than $5,700; however, a lot of donations are going directly to the school, and the Hasebes won’t know how much until the fundraiser is over at the end of the month.
“I think we’ll get it,” Rachel said. “We’ll find a way to get it.”
The family is hoping to present their $10,000 cheque to the emergency department at the hospital’s Miracle Weekend in June.
Until then, Colton’s busy being a normal kid.
There’s not much difference between who he was before the brain injury and after, although, he said, “I’m pretty sure my voice is deeper.”
His phobias are a little worse after his injury, his attention span is slightly shorter and some tasks are a little more difficult, he said, like “writing a billion paragraphs.”
But it’s a small price for surviving prolonged cardiac arrest.
“I guess people can take away that it’s possible to make a full recovery if you’re lucky enough or determined enough,” he said.
Colton is a bit of both.
Anyone interested in donating to Colton’s fundraiser can visit tinyurl.com/coltoncares.