by Dan England
On most mornings, Cooper Logan pouts face down on the rug in the family room of their Timnath home while devising ways to avoid taking the pills.
Come on, Mom, he begs Meredith, married to Shawn for 13 years. Just give me five more minutes.
Eventually, he gives in, swallowing and swallowing his meds, just like he has to do every single day of his young life, until the 16 pills are gone.
There are many things that are hard about Cooper’s Kawasaki Disease. There’s the fact that he can’t ride motocross or play most sports, and sports are what he loves more than anything, so much so that deciding between meeting Russell Wilson, the Seahawks QB and his favorite NFL player, and a family vacation to Disneyland for his Make-A-Wish present was pure torture. There’s the fact that there’s always a low-grade fear present that he could have a heart attack. There’s the fact that had doctors diagnosed his condition just two days earlier, he’d probably have a regular life.
Given all that, taking some medications to keep him alive doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. But the pills are the worst thing. They are the biggest reminder of his disease and all the limitations doctors place on him because of it.
“It’s just so many to swallow, and it’s the mental problem of having to do it every day,” said his father, Shawn. “He knows he has to do it, but it just gets old. Ultimately, I think he just wants to be normal.”
After all, his brothers, Dallin, 12, and Jake, 6, don’t have to swallow marbles every morning, and they don’t have to hear their mother nag them about it, and they don’t have to hear “no” all the time, either. As in, no, you can’t play baseball. Or no, you can’t run. Or no, you can’t just skip one day taking the pills.
Kawasaki Disease can be cruel or relatively kind, depending on when doctors catch it. Cooper was 3 when he ran a horrible fever and had weird symptoms, including swollen lips. Doctors thought his appendicitis had burst and rushed him into surgery an hour after he arrived. On Cooper’s first night back home, he screamed all night.
“It was the most powerful screaming you’ve ever heard, and he did it the whole night,” Shawn said. “They told us it had to be something else. There’s no way he should be in that much pain.”
Cooper spent a few more days in the hospital before Shawn and Meredith, frustrated at the progress, took him to Children’s Hospital. Doctors there see 80 cases a year of Kawasaki and diagnosed it almost right away. But by then it was too late: It was 12 days since Cooper came down with symptoms. After 10 days, the disease can’t be treated, but it can be controlled.
A year later after learning the horrible news, Shawn started the Kawasaki Kids Foundation. The foundation does what you’d expect, including raising money for research and creating backpacks full of fun games and toys for the kids affected by the disease. But one of the main goals of Kawasaki Kids is to simply spread the word about the disease so other kids don’t have to live Cooper’s life. The foundation puts posters in doctor’s offices and coordinates marketing campaigns to keep the disease in the doctors’ heads.
“We’ve saved 27 kids who were diagnosed in time because of our efforts,” Shawn said. “That is really, really special.”
There are a few local fundraisers coming up in the summer months for the Kawasaki Foundation. There’s the Sixth Annual Kawasaki Classic on July 29 at the Ptarmigan Country Club in Fort Collins. There’s also the Bags, Bites and Brews corn hole tournament at 11 a.m. on Aug. 17 in Timnath Community Park. You can register for both events through their website (link).
As a result of the disease, Cooper has what doctors call a “giant” aneurysm, ballooning in the wall of an artery on his heart. If that burst, well, Shawn turns white and says, “it wouldn’t be good.” That’s partly why Cooper takes so many pills. He takes others because of the kidney failure he faces as a result of the blood thinners and heart medications that keep him alive. It’s a delicate and difficult juggling act, Shawn said.
A racing heart puts the aneurysm in the most danger of bursting, so Cooper has to chill out most of the time. But Shawn and Meredith let him play outside, and they allow him to play sports in a limited role.
“We have just decided that there are some things that you just have to experience,” Shawn said. “We have to let him have a little bit of fun.”
That means he can play basketball, at least for a year or two, and he played flag football this year. It was only six games, and he won’t get to play again, but Cooper played great as the QB (just like Russell Wilson) and also intercepted a pass and returned it for a TD.
Yes, Cooper is 10, and he loved the game, but they’ve learned to trust him because Cooper can feel when it’s time to sit for a bit. When he gets hot, or when he can’t recover in three breathes, he takes himself out of the game. It’s an almost a sixth sense, Shawn said, that Cooper developed after dealing with the disease for seven years.
“He has a built-in monitor, and so he has a good handle on it,” Shawn said. “If it was up to his doctors, he wouldn’t do anything, but because of his own monitor, when he played football this year, he had the most amazing experience ever. He had a lifetime of dreams come true.”
Cooper’s had some opportunities most kids won’t get, such as, yes, the chance to meet Wilson, the Seahawk’s QB, after Ryan Spilough, a family friend, set up the meeting (Cooper, after all, did pick Disneyland for Make-A-Wish). But those moments can only do so much. Cooper does get down, and that’s not only when it’s time for his pills. Shawn and Meredith try to inspire him with stories of other athletes overcoming adversity.
Of course, they get down too. It’s sad and frustrating and even scary to have a 10-year-old with a bomb for a heart. But there are little moments that help: When Shawn and Meredith watched him on the football field, scrambling for touchdowns, it was like they had a normal boy who loved pretending he was Wilson. They’ve learned how to say no to him, but for six games, they finally got to say yes.
LEARN MORE: If you are interested in learning more about the disease, donating to the foundation or learning more about the latest fundraisers hosted by the organization visit their website.