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Chris Fleck

A Boy’s Amazing Strength And Faith

Instead of heading to baseball practice, Cody Sugai had to be rushed to the hospital for a life-threatening diagnosis, one he takes in stride

Whether life is considered fair or not, it seems those who find success, however success is defined, have common traits of perseverance, positivity and constant sensations of fortunate faith. It’s almost certain there will be bumps in the road or obstacles on the trail that will test a person’s strength. It’s how we respond to those hardships that helps heighten our internal attitude and viewpoints of the world around us and what we are capable of overcoming. It also should be noted that adversity isn’t selective, it doesn’t revolve around age, time or place. Often it happens unexpectedly, challenging our spirit with no preparation.

Cody Sugai’s so-called adversity anniversary can be marked as Feb. 17, 2010. Then a fourth-grader at Hawaii Baptist Academy, Cody was going about his normal routine – as the role model student and athlete had on any other given school day. Preparing for a school play, in which he had the role of the island of Kauai, Cody began to feel the onset of a headache. As the day continued, that slight head throb would worsen, advancing into excruciating pain which ultimately sent him to Kapiolani Medical Center’s emergency department. The pediatric emergency unit quickly detected an onset of bleeding in Sugai’s brain. After hours of racing hearts and constant pacing, Cody’s parents, Jeanette and Scott, finally got a moment to breathe as doctors stabilized him. He would remain in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for weeks as doctors assessed his condition and forecast the appropriate next steps.

Cody was diagnosed with an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation, which causes abnormalities in the connections between veins and arteries. It disrupts blood flow between tangled arteries and veins, and can occur anywhere in the body, but primarily it is found in the brain and heart.

After careful analysis, the doctor’s plans for Cody involved Gamma Knife radiation treatment, where more than 200 gamma rays targeted the AVM. Because of Cody’s fragile condition and the sensitive location of the AVM, radiation as opposed to traditional surgery was the only option.

“When he (Cody) came out of sedation, I was expecting everything to be normal, but it wasn’t,” says Cody’s father Scott.

Although he did not lose speech function, Cody had to start from scratch, relearning all that we wake up and do without taking a second to think about.

“He had to relearn everything. How to drink water, how to sit and stand. Liquid was actually dangerous at that point because if the muscles didn’t react in time he could choke,” adds Scott.

Recovery from this type of condition and procedure was not going to be easy and would test anyone’s psyche to the core. But Cody pushed through, guided by Kapiolani’s physicians and physical therapy team. He made tremendous milestones in a short amount of time. It started with just getting out of bed, then walking around the bed, followed by walking out of his room and down the hall. Through pure grit and rampant determination Cody made a full recovery, going so far as making his basketball team when he returned to school.

About those months of recovery, Cody says, “The thing guiding me is that I could always be positive and I can always get better.

God has a plan for me to get better.”

An inspiration to his classmates, Cody was treated as a celebrity when he returned to school.

“He kind of disrupted their schedule, but the teachers said it was a great disruption because his classmates and friends needed to know he was OK. It was something that happened so suddenly, one day he was there and the next he wasn’t,” says mom Jeanette.

Last year Cody did experience another small, but less severe bleeding, which he is continuing to recover from, gaining more strength each day.

Understanding his tremendous courage and faith, Kapiolani Medical Center – as a member of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals – has chosen Cody to represent Hawaii as its 2012 Champion. As Hawaii’s Children’s Miracle Network ambassador, Cody will travel to Washington, D.C., and Orlando to share his story and meet all the other Champions from each state.

“Not only do people get inspired by my story, but I get inspired by other kids. Some of these kids have it worse than I have, and I see them smiling every day. I just try to do my best and keep going and going,” adds Cody, a huge basketball fan jumped ship as an Los Angeles Lakers fan and now pulls for the L.A. Clippers.

An insightful kid, Cody is living life on life’s terms, taking everything in stride and working to do his very best for those around him.

“There is a plan, not so much in our control, but there is something bigger than what we have going on around us. This is just part of it. I use this now to promote the hospital, promote God and faith,” Cody says confidently.

Post-script: You may recall reading in MidWeek a year ago about Hawaii’s 2011 Children’s Miracle Network 2011 Champion, Maddy Wisser, who suffers from spina bifida.

It has been a very busy year for the irrepressible Maddy, to say the least. The teen has had the honor of riding in the Merrie Monarch parade, presenting the Miracle Maker Award to Miss Hawaii Lauren Cheape. Aside from traveling and telling her story, she also has met Miss America and American Idol‘s David Archuleta.

These are the most amazing kids.

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