Tomas, age 14, was at home with his family in August 2021, when he suddenly collapsed and stopped breathing. The boy’s stunned parents rushed into action. Tomas’ father, Jorge, performed CPR while his mother, Daniela, dialed 911. Despite efforts from Jorge and the arriving team of paramedics, Tomas was not responsive.
Jorge accompanied their son in the ambulance. While there was some initial discussion as to which hospital to take Tomas, Jorge immediately requested Nicklaus Children’s Hospital because he felt there was no other place they wanted or needed to be.
Upon arrival at the hospital, Tomas still had no heart function and was emergently admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation ECMO, a heart-lung bypass therapy that would give his heart time to gain strength and recover. When doctors made the decision to transition Tomas from ECMO, he did not wake up or react the way the medical staff had hoped. While his heartbeat was restored and his brain activity appeared normal, the team of doctors decided to perform an MRI to learn more. The MRI revealed that Tomas had sustained severe trauma and damage to portions of his brain limiting and potentially eliminating basic functions, such as breathing, swallowing, speaking, seeing, and walking. This presented a challenging and uncertain long road ahead to potentially relearn and/or regain any of these basic skills.
During his time at the hospital, Nicklaus Children’s staff worked very diligently with Tomas on numerous physical and mental therapies to relearn his basic motor skills.
“They were all very supportive and found creative way to engage and encourage Tomas daily,” said Daniela. “I will never forget how many daily visits were made by nurses, therapists and doctors to see Tomas to give him words of encouragement and celebrate every milestone accomplished – big or small.”
“Tomas is an exceptional, resilient young man with an incredible future ahead of him,” said Dr. Meyer. “The entire PICU team at Nicklaus will always be behind him.”
After a little over four weeks in the PICU at Nicklaus Children’s, Tomas was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation clinic in Jacksonville, Florida for five weeks and finally returned home in October 2021 to continue a very aggressive outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy regimen, while taking math and English classes. As a precautionary measure in December 2021 Tomas underwent a procedure to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator. Today, Tomas has finished the ninth grade and will start school full-time in the fall 2022. During the summer Tomas kept an aggressive therapy schedule while simultaneously volunteering as a counselor at his school summer camp. His incredible drive, hard work and determination have been instrumental to his recovery and to his goal to be a regular teenager again. His family and Nicklaus Children’s clinical staff are amazed by his progress.
“My son is a Warrior,” Jorge said of Tomas. “His will and discipline are an inspiration to everyone that meets him. It takes a village to achieve all major accomplishment and we will always be thankful and blessed for our village of family, friends, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, and all the doctors, nurses, and therapists that continue to be instrumental in Tomas’s journey.” And as Tomas likes to say, “The Come Back is always Bigger than the Set Back.”