ELIZABETH— Despite a diagnosis of severe persistent asthma, 13-year-old Samaad Bethea has a life that hums with activity. After graduating from Albert Einstein School this spring, he was accepted to Hamilton Prep School in Elizabeth, a competitive program. He also plays football and basketball and recently returned from Florida after competing in a basketball tournament at Disney.
It is an impressive life for a young man who just three years ago was placed on a ventilator for nearly a month in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey (CHoNJ) after an asthma attack that nearly killed him. That asthma attack, combined with an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, left Bethea paralyzed for 19 days.
After recovering from the paralysis, Bethea was discharged and required several months of physical therapy to regain his strength. His muscles were quite atrophied and he was very weak. After extensive therapy and weekly follow up at CHoNJ’s Department of Pediatric Pulmonology, Bethea made a full recovery and now requires office visits only once every two months.
Sushmita Mikkilineni, M.D. Director of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonology Medicine at CHoNJ, and Felesia Bowen DNSc, Nurse Practitioner of Pediatric Pulmonology Medicine, were both invited to Bethea’s eighth grade graduation to celebrate his great progress. Despite many school absences, he maintained a 3.2 grade point average.
“Stories like Samaad’s should remind us of the remarkable power of the human spirit,” says Dr. Mikkilineni. “Samaad has excelled in school despite his condition, and I am sure his teammates are happy that he is able to participate. We are very proud to have treated him and to have helped him to achieve his dreams.”
The Bethea family is grateful for the care their son received at CHoNJ, and they consider the specialists to be “like his extended family.” They are thankful for his progress and proud of his accomplishments.
“He has learned to live with the disease and how to control it, and not let the disease control him,” says his mother, Sharon Bethea, who resides in Elizabeth. “He is a very outgoing kid and can be a leader, and he uses that ability in a positive way.”
The Pulmonary team at CHoNJ worked with Bethea’s coaches to train them in the use of an EpiPen in case of emergencies, and explained that Bethea requires at least a half hour warm up before any playing time and an extended cool down afterward. Everyone works together to ensure his safety when the team travels out of state.
“At first it was scary for me to allow him to travel with the team, but I realized that I have to let go some and allow him to do what he enjoys,” she added.
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