Being a parent can be the most challenging job in the world. For Tara Cordle, of Wheelersburg, the challenges has been exceeding at times, but she has always been resilient and ready to fight as a lioness if her children needed. Leading by example, she has two children that also know what it means to fight and hold on to their determination even when the odds seem to be against them. To them, and especially to the youngest of the two, Cordle is a hero – Super Mom!
Cordle had her first child, Kara Harris, when she was 20 years old.
“She’s a bubbly girl, and she’s very smart,” Cordle bragged.
When Harris was 11, she had to have surgery for scoliosis. She now has a full spinal fusion. Still, that has never stopped her from reaching her goals. Harris, now 19, is a student at Shawnee State University, where she not only excels academically but is also a cheerleader.
Though it was difficult for Cordle, as a mother to have to see her daughter go through surgery and experience pain, it in no way prepared her for the pain she would see her son go through.
Cordle had her son Waylon Cordle when she was 29 and is quick to call him her “crazy, little hero” despite the heroic efforts she has made for him.
Tara explained that her son was a witty, funny child when he was younger. And, he loved baseball. Other than that, he was just a normal kid. That was until he got sick.
At the age of 7, Waylon caught viral encephalitis, which results in inflammation of the brain induced by a viral infection. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening. In Waylon’s case, it was forever life-changing. Waylon brain was damaged by the illness, causing him to suffering cognitive development delays and also have severe seizures.
When he first got sick, Tara remembers that was throwing up, and she thought he had just caught a virus. Then, he had his first seizure.
“I had never seen anything like that,” Tara remembers. “I had never seen anyone have a seizure before.”
Waylon was immediately taken to Children’s Hospital, where the family stayed for the next four months. He was put into a medically induced coma in order to stop the seizures and further damage to his brain.
“They pretty much shut him down, and he was like that for about a month,” this strong mother remembered enduring. “Then, when they brought him out of a coma, he was like a seven-year-old infant.”
With tears in her eyes, the mother struggled remembering when she was told that her son would not live.
“We were in the hospital for 120 days. Of course, I had a daughter that was at home, so that was difficult,” she explained.
Waylon did live and started progressing. On weekends, Tara’s husband would go home and help to take care of her daughter. Tara, however, stayed by Waylon’s side. She remembers hospital staff and family friends coming in and asking her if she needed to take a break. Still, she would not leave him.
“How can you take a break?” she questioned.
Waylon would actually have to be put into a medically induced coma twice in his young life. The first time was when he was first diagnosed in November 2012. The first time was for 26 days. Then, in November 2015, he went into a status seizure – a prolonged seizure that does not end. This time he was in medically induced coma for 31 days. The family stayed at the hospital for two months this time. Each time, he had to re-learn to do everyday activities and walk and talk.
“It’s crazy when you are in a hospital room for that long,” Tara commented. “It kind of just caves in on you.”
She added that the second times was easier because the hospital staff knew what had worked for Waylon the first time, so they were able to repeat successful treatments without going through as much trial and error.
Still, even with rehab, Waylon was never the same.
“He’s not Waylon like before he got sick,” Tara said.
Though he is now 11, he is mentally about five. He still loves baseball, and he plays on the Challenger League in Wheelersburg.
“He can walk, and he can talk. He’s way better than anybody ever thought he would be,” Tara explained.
Though he was on the All-Star t-ball team when he was younger, with all of his illness, he was not able to play for four years. He was able to start playing on the Challenger League last year.
For so long, it was difficult for Waylon to even leave the couch because he was having so many seizures. Tara and her husband explored several options to help to decrease them, but many of the options would not work for him. They considered an implant that has helped with other children, but it is not looking hopeful currently.
“If you go back to 2013, I actually took him to New York to see one of the best neurologists in the United States to see if they could do something,” Tara stated. “The end result was to physically take out a part of his brain to help his stop seizing. He has seizures from different spots. In a typical person, they can actually do that and live seizure free.”
Unfortunately for Waylon, the surgery could be done but because his seizures come from more that one area, the surgery would not help much. Tara had an appointment to go back but struggled to commit to the surgery. She started researching harder, thinking there must be some answer.
“I don’t take no for answer, and I don’t give up,” the mother stated. “We started researching, and that is when I found the whole world of medical marijuana. I would rather give him that than take my son’s brain out of his head. That’s the craziest thing in the world. But, its illegal, so what do you do?”
What Tara decided to do was fight for her son. She started spending as much time as she could at the State House, talking to legislators and showing them the impact medical marijuana could have on her son. At the time, the 11-year-old was taking 47 pills a day and still seizing. Meanwhile, kids in Colorado where medical marijuana was an option could ride bikes and live a fairly normal life.
To know for herself, Tara went to Colorado and purchased marijuana and gave it to her son, and it worked.
“We went from having 15 to 20 seizures in a day to having seven in a month. That’s just unbelievable,” she stated. “When you’re faced with you son two times laying in a coma to where they don’t if your kid is going to make, and you have to resort to doing things that are illegal, you’re going to do things that are illegal simply because you don’t want your kid to die.”
She thought about moving her family, but had been at her job for 20 years and did not want to have to uproot her children and move across the country.
“That fueled my fire to get is legalized here. People had to listen,” Tara stated. “It was a long process. It is coming in Ohio, but it is taking way too long. By September 2018, it should be up and running. It is actually kind of legal now, but it will be up and running to where we can get it here. Never in my right mind did I think I would be fighting for medical marijuana, but when you see what it can do, you have to understand. When you’re kid is going to die, you have to do something. Who wouldn’t fight for their kid?”
Tara explained that she does not even use marijuana or any drugs, but when she sees her son play baseball and enjoy life rather than “laying on the couch, dying of a seizure,” she can’t help but be an advocate.
His seizures have been so bad that Tara would have to give him CPR, and he would have to use an oxygen tank.
“Now, it is collecting dust because we use it so little,” she explained.
Waylon is still on several medications, but he is no longer on several medications and seizing dozens of times a day. Tara explained that seizure medications are very strong drugs. Going off of them can induce seizures because of withdrawals. With Waylon so rarely seizing now, it is difficult to take him off a medication knowing he no longer needs it and that it is damaging his body but also knowing he will have seizures for a few days. The medications have many side-effects and has among other things, made his bones brittle. Tara hopes that he one day is taking significantly less medication and no longer seizing. For now, however, she is able that he is able to function and experience joy out of life. She explained that if he had been given the option of taking medical marijuana from the beginning, he would be much healthier today.
“I have a happy, chunky little 11-year-old boy that plays baseball because of medical marijuana. That’s just how it is,” she stressed. “He makes me proud to see how he is now after all he has been through. He’s a pretty cool kid. He deserves a chance for something better.”
Tara’s fight has involved countless hours fighting in Columbus, practically living in Columbus hotels, taking Waylon along to meet people and testimony to how well he is doing and even standing at polling place sharing his story. They did not win the first time, but medical marijuana has since passed, and a medical marijuana control board will be up and running in just over a year. All that was accomplished by strong mothers fighting for their children.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.