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January 2, 2013

Student spends holiday break in hospital

— Seven-year-old Robert Witherow is a straight-A student at Cedar Hill Elementary School who enjoys playing baseball and basketball and the popular video game Skylanders.

Robert was looking forward to the holiday break when he had a seizure and stopped breathing at his family home in Ardmore Dec. 18.

The young boy, who does not have a history of seizures or epilepsy, has spent the past two weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children, where his team of doctors has been trying to control his rampant seizures.

“They’ve been giving him different drugs to stop the seizures but they’re having trouble shutting down the seizures,” said his father, Stacey, who also has 11-year-old and 9-year-old sons and a 4-year-old daughter with his wife Theresia. “They’re using pentobarbital to try and cool down his brain and slow his electromagnetic activity.”

Robert was born with a mild heart condition, but Stacey said his youngest son has not had any complications since then and there is no known connection to his current medical issues.

“He has mild pulmonary stenosis,” he said. “There was a problem with a valve in his heart when he was born, and (doctors) had to run a balloon through the valve in his heart to open up the valve. He sees a cardiologist, but it’s been very mild and hasn’t been a problem for him.”

Hospital stay

During the first week of his hospital stay, Robert was conscious and reactive some days, but in the past week he has been in a medical coma.

“He is all pin-cushioned up,” Stacey said. “They have him intubated and on a ventilator, and he has a breathing tube. If they can’t get the seizures stopped, then he doesn’t have a chance, basically.”

Stacey said doctors are unsure what has caused his son, whom he calls Robby and describes as “a real smart and sweet boy,” to have the seizures. His team of doctors, which include a pediatric neurologist, ruled out a bacterial infection and were trying to pinpoint a virus as a possible cause.

Robert had two spinal taps and both batches were sent to the Mayo Clinic in Ohio. The first batch came back negative, and the family should receive the results from the second test by Thursday.

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