By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Christiane Cuadros, a 1995 Holy Trinity graduate, calls her son, Christopher, her miracle.
Soon after he was born 14 years ago, doctors told Christiane he had Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome.
“They pretty much told me that he was expected to die, and I would be lucky if he lived a month,” Christiane recalled.
Christiane wouldn’t accept the doctor’s prognosis, insisting that doctors give Christopher the same chance they would for any other child.
“It’s only fair,” Christiane said.
And since that time, Christopher has made remarkable progress.
Christopher was recently chosen as one of six area recipients of the Tim Orth Foundation, and Christiane is planning to use the funds from the organization to purchase additional equipment to improve Christopher’s mobility.
A basketball jamboree fundraiser for the Orth Foundation will take place at the Glencoe-Silver Lake High School gymnasium Saturday, March 31. Doors will open at 5 p.m.
All of the proceeds from this year’s raffle tickets, donations, concessions, silent auction, and admission will be distributed among the recipients.
Trisomy 18 is caused by a chromosomal defect, according to the Trisomy 18 Foundation website. A trisomy occurs at conception when a baby receives three number 18 chromosomes instead of the normal two. It occurs in about one out of every 3,000 live births.
Unlike Down syndrome, which also is caused by a chromosomal defect, the developmental issues caused by Trisomy 18 are associated with medical complications resulting from heart abnormalities, kidney malformations, and other internal organ disorders, which can be potentially life-threatening.
For Christiane, the news came as a complete shock. Throughout her entire nine-month pregnancy everything had appeared normal, including all of her tests and ultrasounds.
Although the news was heartbreaking, Christiane said she accepted it. “I figured God gave me what I could handle and he chose me to be Christopher’s mom.”
But she wasn’t as accepting of the way doctors first reacted to Christopher’s complications.
“The doctors weren’t thinking about doing any surgeries at that time for his heart, and all I could think of is, ‘I am going to fight this. He is my baby and I carried him for nine months and how dare you tell me that he is not going to be anybody,’” Christiane said.
“From that moment on, I had it in me and knew it was my job to fight. I have been his advocate ever since. Sometimes I think that is all I do. I feel like I am always fighting for him.”
Because of Christiane’s efforts, Christopher’s current health is good.
When he goes to his doctors, they can’t believe how well he is doing, according to Christiane.
But, his first few years were difficult, as Christopher had to endure a number of surgeries. He had open heart surgery to repair two holes in his heart (at only 4 weeks old), two eye surgeries to help a lazy eye and a droopy eyelid, he had his gall bladder removed, and a g-tube put in for feedings.
His last surgery, in 2005, was a spinal fusion for scoliosis, which has prevented him from getting recurring pneumonias. Before the surgery, his spine was seriously curved and it was compromising his lung space.
Christiane keeps Christopher’s life as normal as possible. He attends school at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Monday through Friday. He rides the bus to and from school, takes special education classes, and attends a few regular classes with the eighth grade.
“They call it integration,” Christiane said. “He enjoys school, but particularly the kids, because of the social interaction.”
“He really watches people. He loves people and if he can, he would always be holding somebody’s hand. He doesn’t speak with words, but he definitely speaks with his eyes and eyebrows, his facial expressions,” Christiane said. “He is never unhappy. He is the happiest kid I know.”
When Christopher isn’t at school, there is a nurse taking care of him at all times.
Having a nurse in the home 24 hours a day has become normal for the Cuadros family, but according to Christiane, it was the most difficult adjustment she has had to make giving up her personal space.
“We have a staff of about six nurses from all around,” Christiane said. “One from Albert Lea. She has been with him since he was 5 months old. Every agency we have been with has stuck with us and become part of our family,” Christiane said.
Because Christopher cannot walk or stand alone, Christiane has him on a routine therapy schedule to work to strengthen his muscles because his muscles are starting to get tight from lack of standing and weight bearing.
Doctors are suggesting surgeries to help with contractures in Christopher’s legs and a bad knee, but Christiane is hoping exercise will be enough to improve the problem.
Special equipment helps him stand twice a day, and mobilizers help stretch his arms and legs.
“When he goes into a gate trainer at school, he can walk across the whole gym,” Christiane said.
He also likes to use a scooter and a tricycle at school which works his leg muscles.
Christiane is a registered nurse, which has helped her to care for Christopher. She is currently working on getting her bachelor of science degree in nursing.
Initially, after graduating from Holy Trinity High School, Christiane went to school for international business because she speaks Spanish. She started her education at St. Cloud State University.
After Christopher was born, she changed her career to nursing.
“If I hadn’t had him (Christopher), I would never have become a nurse. I wouldn’t be who I am today. I think it has led me on a path that I never expected, and I am really happy. I think I am down the right road, finally,” Christiane said.
“I am very blessed. I hope I have a lot more time with him (Christopher). He continues to teach me things every day, and it’s pretty amazing.”
Christiane has two children younger than Christopher Brandon, 12, is attending HLWW Middle School; and Alexa, 9, is a third-grader at Holy Trinity Elementary School.
The Cuadros children enjoy spending time with Christopher, too, and help the nurses who are there to take care of Christopher, when he is not in school.
About the Tim Orth Foundation
The mission of the Tim Orth Memorial Foundation is to assist, financially or otherwise, children in the west central Minnesota area who are facing substantial medical expenses incurred as a result of a serious accident or illness.
The first benefit was in 1996, for Tim Orth, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. After seeing how successful the 1996 benefit was, the decision was made to make it an annual event. As a result, the Tim Orth Memorial Foundation was organized.
The foundation is an all-volunteer organization, which means 100 percent of the proceeds are used to help the selected recipients.
Entertainment advertised for the March 31, 14th Annual Tim Orth Basketball Jamboree event includes the GSL Pep Band, Northwest Martial Arts, Kelly’s Dance Academy, GSL Danceline, Hutch Key Club, Just for Kix, Shootouts, Slams, and more.
Other 2012 recipients of the Tim Orth Foundation are: Max Karels from Brownton, son of Paul and Trisha Karels, and Michelle Wright; Samuel Schumnan from Litchfield, son of Mark and Stacey Schumann; Colton Engels from Silver Lake, son of Jenny Arther and Leo Engels; Gage Driver from Litchfield, son of Terry and Trina Driver; and Dillon Mathern from Hutchinson, son of David and Laurie Mathern.