Parker Thomas Smith was born, along with his twin sister Avery, on September 17, 2012. From the moment he was born, he was a unique, beautiful baby with an uncanny way to bring a smile to anyone’s face. Parker’s personality was dynamic and complex. He possessed the sweet silly charm of a baby, but also the strength, perseverance, and wisdom of someone much older. Parker had a way about him that let you know that he was reading you on a level that went beyond surface qualities. He could reach you at your core, at your soul…and you could feel it.
In early September 2013, Parker began to have some concerning “episodes”. We began to notice that he would occasionally not be able to move the left side of his body, and he would appear slightly dazed. However, within 5-10 minutes, he would be back to normal, crawling and playing like nothing ever happened. On September 4, 2013, we decided to bring him to his pediatrician, who recommended that we take him to the emergency room to check things out.
Parker was admitted to the hospital that evening, and he underwent a series of tests to figure out what was going on. He had an MRI, multiple CT scans, and an EEG, to name a few. After the team of neurologists and neurosurgeons reviewed all of the information, we were informed that Parker had a diseased right Middle Cerebral Artery (MCA), and that this artery had two aneurysms that needed to be treated. We were also told that the “episodes” that had lead us to bring Parker to the hospital were Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs), which can also be described as mini-strokes. Parker’s brain scans also showed us that he had experienced at least one true stroke, which may have occurred in utero.
On September 9, 2013, Parker was transported from Rady Children’s Hospital (San Diego) to UC San Diego Medical Center. He underwent an angiogram procedure, which was performed by Dr. Alex Khalessi. During the procedure, Dr. Khalessi was able to coil both aneurysms and place a stent in Parker’s right MCA. The procedure went as well as we all hoped it could, and Parker was transferred back to Rady Children’s Hospital to begin his recovery.
On the morning of September 10, 2013, Parker suffered a hemorrhage which left him unresponsive. Luckily, the blood from the hemorrhage only affected a small part of his brain, and the rest was distributed into the normal fluid spaces around his brain. However, having blood is irritating to the brain and introduced a new series of risks and possible complications.
Over the next 12 days, Parker made an amazing recovery; surprising the doctors and nurses everyday with his progress. He was discharged from the hospital on September 22, 2013. We were told that he did not need to continue physical therapy, and may only need some occupational therapy to improve the functional use of his left hand. He left the hospital doing all of the things a baby his age should be doing: crawling, smiling, and waving.
We were incredibly fortunate to have had Parker home with us from September 22-October 30, 2013. On October 30, 2013, Parker began to cry and was inconsolable. He then became very tired and vomited, but was still responsive. Eventually, he began to have seizures and 911 was called. Parker was airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital, where we were told that he had suffered another hemorrhage. He was put into a medically-induced coma in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), in order to allow his brain to focus solely on healing itself. After a few more CT scans, it was determined that Parker would need to have another angiogram procedure. He was again transported to UC San Diego Medical Center, where Dr. Khalessi performed the second angiogram procedure. During this procedure, Dr. Khalessi had to completely shut down Parker’s right MCA, as the hemorrhage had destroyed it beyond repair. This caused Parker to have a stroke in the part of his brain that was once supplied blood by the MCA. He was once again transferred back to the PICU at Rady Children’s Hospital to recover.
Unfortunately, the complications from the stroke (i.e. swelling) caused the other healthy arteries in his brain to lose their ability to function properly, essentially causing him to have more strokes. After fighting as hard as he could and demonstrating incredible strength, Parker passed away peacefully in the arms of his mother and father on November 7, 2013.
Parker will be loved and missed always. He was an incredible boy who taught us many important life lessons. Parker taught us how to love unconditionally and with our whole hearts. He taught us about what true strength and perseverance are. He showed us that family, and friends that become family, are the greatest gift we have in this life, and that we should treasure each moment we have with our loved ones.