Gabriel Cohen

Meet Gabriel, miracle child of mine

“ I thought I would have to teach my child about the world. Turns out I have to teach the world about my son. They see a child who cannot speak, I see a miracle that does not need words.”

There is a world that we all know and are familiar with, the world of perfection and normality and there is our world. Our world is filled with imperfection and heartache, it is filled with children with disabilities and abnormalities, it is filled with doctors, therapists, hospitals and medication, it is filled with love, affection and understanding, and with anger, guilt and pain. We never asked to be thrown into this world, it just happened that way but looking back now, we would not change a thing.

It all started in 2002

Gabriel was born in February 2002. He was born with a cleft lip and after that he was diagnosed with Lobar Holoprosencephaly, partial Agenesis of the Corpus Collosum, Craniostynosis, Microcephaly, Absence Seizures and Diabetes Insipidus (water diabetes not sugar). We were devastated. It felt like our whole world had fallen to pieces. We were told Gabriel may never walk and may never amount to anything. We decided then and there that we were going to fight for our son's to quality of life and give him every opportunity in his life to help him achieve his full potential. And so our journey began…not knowing what the future would hold for our son... a rollercoaster of emotions... fear, pain, grief, sadness, guilt, blame, anger, hate, pity and then finally we found ourselves with acceptance and happiness.

Gabriel started therapy when he was 9 months old and we incorporate his therapy into his daily routines and it has become a part of our natural lives. He attends occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy and horse riding. Gabriel achieved all his milestones at the correct age until he was 6 months old and after that he started to show severe developmental delays. Gabriel now goes to a wonderful special needs school in the mornings where he is thriving and is learning independence. He is currently assessed at about 10-14 months cognitively but we have learned to appreciate things that he can do, and not to look at the things he cannot.

Gabriel crawled at 12 months and walked at 20 months on his own. He is a very active curious child and has a strong will and determination that helps him to succeed. He loves to jump, play and sing. He has mastered walking up and down stairs on his own, can switch his electronic toys on and off, turn pages in books, chooses which toys to play with plus lots more. He is non-verbal and cannot sign but manages to communicate most of his needs with his eyes or body movements. He started eating solids at 3 ½ years old and now loves to eat all foods. He has very little concept of danger and needs to cared for and watched at all times. Sleep is not a word in our household but after so many years, we seem to have gotten use to the lack of sleep. We have adjusted our lives around the needs of Gabriel and this is our life. We know no other life and we have known no better.

Understanding my special needs child

It has not been an easy road and we know that we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. But part of the healing process is acceptance and an understanding that every child is unique in their own way. The fact that our child will never leave home, will never go to a university, read or write, or ever get married is part of accepting, it is part of loving your child  unconditionally and is part of the realization that Gabriel is perfect in our eyes and in God's eyes. It is the understanding that miracles do happen. That everything a child does is a miracle, every movement, every breath. It is part of appreciating life for what it is, for what it gives you and is part of changing priorities and seeing beyond what society dictates as normal. It is opening your eyes to see one of God's angels lying in your arms, smiling at his parents with his big blue eyes and blonde curls. Gabriel is GREAT teacher without knowing, and makes people realize what they actually have and to be grateful for just that!

Gabriel has an aura around him, an energy that draws people to him, an energy that makes every person smile in his presence, and an energy that makes everything around him radiate with sunshine. Gabriel brings us an overwhelming joy and our biggest motivation to keep going is his constant smile and laughter.In 2008, Gabriel became big brother to Jaden after a long battle and he is now a normal and healthy toddler who loves his brother. Although Jaden has overtaken Gabriel in cognitive development, the two play together and enjoy each other’s company. My children have been my inspiration, and through the long sleepless nights and the stressful times when Gabriel is sick, I am still so grateful for every day that we have with him.

Living with Holoprosencephaly

Living with Gabriel has become OUR way of life, no books, no instructions, the medical text books all say that kids with HPE mostly die or are "vegetables", BUT with only an overseas support group with an unbelievable bunch of HPE moms to guide and advise us along our journey which has been our saving grace . At least our medical team listens to us, and asks US what to do in some cases with Gabriel and even takes the advice of the support group, as it is us moms that know better about daily life with HPE than the specialists.We have learnt that Gabriel is not his diagnosis and we try not to focus on it too much. Gabriel is Gabriel, and that is pure innocent love. It doesn’t matter what Gabriel can’t do. What matters is that we have been given this special child and that he has a happy and content life. It is as simple as that...

Fast forward....

Gabriel is turning 13 years old next month. An age we never imagined he would reach.  My big baby is now over 60kg and is 1.6m tall. Still in nappies, still drinks from a baby bottle with thickened fluids, still needs to be hand-fed, still cognitively about 1 years old only BUT still the happiest boy I know. Despite all the daily challenges and medical issues we have had to face with Gabriel over the years, he is still the sunshine in our lives and brings us more joy than we can ever imagine. This special boy has touched the lives of many, without knowing and without words, he has turned out to be the greatest teacher to many, teaching what is important in life in the simplest manner. WATCH THIS SPACE for more.... BIG celebrations in February 2015 to celebrate a miracle and a milestone for Gabriel's 13th birthday and a spiritual Barmitzvah for him to welcome him into his religious adulthood as Gabriel Cohen, miracle child of mine!
gabriel cohen
February-March 2015:
Gabriel had a beautiful and spiritual Barmitzvah ceremony that touched the whole community. We shared our celebration with our family and close friends by sponsoring a Brocha (meal) on the Sabbath at our Shul (synagogue) which was enjoyed by all. Ivor and myself felt so proud of our young man, how far he has come and how far we have come, both emotionally and spiritually on our journey with Gabriel. We are so blessed to have Gabriel in our lives and we cherish every day that we have with him.

Our worst fear came true

December 2018, that dreaded day that we always knew would come and never spoke about came. On Friday 28th December, Gabriel collapsed and stopped breathing. There are no words to express the emotions at this time. Gabriel's dad Ivor did not hesitate for a moment and started doing CPR on him while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. Gabriel was put on a ventilator for a few days and the doctors did know if he would make it. Once again, my child, my miracle, proved the doctors' wrong and started to breathe on his own after a few days. He was in ICU for 2 weeks, a very long emotional and tiring 2 weeks. It has taken 7 months for Gabriel to come back to his happy smiling self but we are so grateful and thankful that he has made a full recovery with no permanent damage as far as we can tell.
Gabriel took over 12 months to recover from his collapse in 2018. We are so thankful that he made a full recovery and is back to his happy smiling self. November 2020, Gabriel is doing well and gives us lots of joy. He is 5.9 and weighs 82kg and is a happy teenager. He is still 12-18 months mentally but he is the happiest person that we know. 
Gabriel Cohen

And then Covid arrived..

July 2021, after being in isolation and being so careful for over 18 months, Covid entered our home. Gabriel quickly became very sick and landed up on oxygen for over 5 weeks. We chose not to admit to hospital at the time for numerous reasons. Firstly he would have had to go alone without me into a Covid ward and secondly we were in the middle of the third wave, and the hospital's were full with covid patients. It was a terrifying time as the doctors did not think that Gabriel would survive Covid and told us to prepare ourselves for the worst outcome. We converted our main bedroom into a "hospital room" with all the equipment we needed, and a huge thanks to the Hatzolah Covid program, sending nurses to our home every day for 7 weeks to check in on Gabriel and make sure he was ok, helping us through this very difficult time. And was always, Gabriel showed us what a fighter he is! We are so grateful that he made a full recovery and is back to his happy self. 
And life carries on .....