Daniel Vance - Disabilities

Some of my best ideas for featuring certain people have come from editors publishing this column. Such was the case with the editor of the Grand Island Dispatch near Niagara Falls, New York, who suggested Kateri Murray and son Collin.

In 2004, Kateri was pregnant. A sonogram detected a birth defect causing an enlarged bladder in her baby, said 30-year-old Murray in a telephone interview from her Grand Island home. She ended up delivering at 30 weeks. Collin was born with an abnormal obstructing urethral membrane.

“We were told several times Collin wouldn’t make it,” said Murray. “His lungs had collapsed five times and he wasn’t urinating. About the third day, they said to prepare for a funeral and consider turning off the life support machines.”

While the Murrays were pondering their decision, a nurse said there was “something special about this kid” and perhaps they should hold off on their decision another 24 hours.

“We did, and we begged our church, family, and friends for prayer, and we prayed,” said Murray. “In 24 hours, he pulled through. His heart rate normalized, his blood pressure and lungs improved, and he began urinating. It was really miraculous.”

Collin went on to experience one challenge after another, including having a brain bleed and severe acid reflux. Then in 2007, “he began regressing in development,” said Murray. The change happened literally overnight, about ten days after a flu shot. His fever reached 104. He was in a mental fog, stopped eye contact and answering questions, and started biting his tongue. Another doctor then diagnosed him with autism, which is a pervasive impairment in thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others.

Later, he was diagnosed with stage four kidney failure and doctors pondered a kidney transplant. After a gastric tube implant and dietary changes, Collin physically stabilized and began gaining weight.

“He’s a smart boy with an incredible memory,” said Murray. “But the autism puts him in a fog. He loves swimming, reading, and memorizing. God blessed me with a boy that loves hugging, which isn’t true of many children with autism.”

Besides other issues, Collin has sensory and communication struggles, and echolalia (repeating what others say).

Her advice about autism: “Do as much research as you can. So many people have gone down the same road. It is survivable, but it’s a long road. Find a support network.”