Next week, Thursday to be specific, holds both great promise and great dread for Kaylee Merritt, the mother of three-year-old Cole.

Born early at 34 weeks, Cole Hall remained in the NICU for three-and one-half weeks. The cord was wrapped around his neck twice, and they had to give him regular oxygen and a C-Pap machine at first. They moved him to the step-down unit when no signs of problems appeared after 48 hours. When he was about four months old, he started showing signs of delay. His mom took him to Douglas to Dr. Childers, his pediatrician, who sent them to Atlanta to see a genetic specialist. This doctor found nothing wrong at all, but Kaylee kept seeing more delays.

In 2018, the family moved to Baxley and got involved with Babies Can’t Wait. Babies Can’t Wait (BCW) is Georgia’s Early Intervention program serving children with significant developmental delays, or children who may be at risk for delays due to a diagnosed medical condition. The program provides services to children from birth to age three and their families. The aide from this organization saw more delays than Kaylee did and enrolled both Cole and his twin brother Bryce in the program. Cole wasn’t sitting up when Bryce did, nor did he walk as soon. Bryce was doing everything first. Around 14 months, he started pulling up and then walking. For about six months after his first birthday, he exhibited no signs of problems.

Then Kaylee noticed that one foot was turning in, so she took him to another doctor. One foot would stay straight while the other turned. The doctor put him in SMO (supramalleolar orthosis) braces, which he wore for six months. More simply put, SMO braces are foot and ankle braces. The orthopedist said he had weakness on one side, and he suspected cerebral palsy. When blisters appeared on his foot, he went into an AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) and is still in those.

Back in January, Kaylee noticed him staring into space, transfixed. She could wave her hand in front of his face and he wouldn’t react. Then a severe illness hospitalized him for about three days. He was dehydrated and couldn’t keep any liquids down. His nurses at the hospital were sure they’d have to airlift him to Savannah if he didn’t improve quickly. He finally did improve and went home. The very next day, he went for an EEG. When the results came back normal, Kaylee asked for a second opinion. She knew something was wrong.

Dr. Tresmonti in Macon gave that second opinion. He ordered a sedated MRI and another EEG. When the Halls were about two hours from the hospital on their way home, the doctor called and said Cole had premature brain function. Two days later after reading the MRI, he called and said Cole had at some time had a pediatric stroke. It could have been as early as one month of age. He now has a spot on the back of his brain the size of a silver dollar, which is scar tissue from the stroke. He is sending them to Dr. Boydston in Atlanta to discuss the scar tissue and what to do about it and when. He will do surgery to remove the scar tissue - immediately if the scar is deep and a bit later if not. He also said the scar tissue is causing the cerebral palsy. They have an appointment on October 8, which is next Thursday.

Throughout Cole’s ordeals, Kaylee has had a support system. The family attends Sand Hill Creek Free Will Baptist Church where the people are loving and supportive. Her mother-in-law keeps Bryce and Anslee, the five-year-old sister, if they must be gone. Groups in Hazlehurst and Baxley have been selling ColeStrong car decals and signs. One lady is doing tee shirts. Kaylee asks that the community pray for Cole as they travel to Atlanta next week on Thursday. Only God knows what will happen.