The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Christmas is a bit merrier for one local family thanks to Port Arthur Police Department’s Blue Santa program.
PAPD Officers Mike Hebert and Eli Van Horn, surprised Barbara Cooper with gifts and gift cards for her and her children recently. Cooper’s youngest child, a daughter named David Emmanuelle Chatman” was the main reason for the visit. The 2-year-old affectionately called “Cupcake” suffers from Dravet Syndrome, also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy, which is a rare hard-to-treat form of epilepsy. Children with the disorder rarely live past the age of two, the mother said.
Cupcake, wearing a light pink helmet, was in a high chair when the officers made their entrance. Tears of joy were shed as Cooper thanked the officers for the assistance.
“There wasn’t going to be a Christmas this year,” Cooper said. “I can’t even explain the stress this take off me.”
For Cooper and her children, Cupcake, Gary, Genesis, Barbaraeanna, this Christmas will be merry. Cooper also has two adult daughters and three grandchildren.
“This will be our first Christmas at home,” she said referring to the fact that she has spent many days in the hospital with her daughter.
The young child suffers hundreds of seizures a day and each time Cooper learns about a certain type of seizure, Cupcake will have a different kind, she said. There are some triggers to the seizures and related health issues that go with the syndrome.
“She can’t regulate her body temperature so no baths,” she said. Baths affect her body temperature and cause severe seizures.
While pregnant Cooper was told her child would have Down’s Syndrome, then she was told that her organs and kidneys would not be able to function and that there was a problem with the child’s heart. At the time she thought she was going to give birth to a boy.
Knowing the child would have some sort of medical problem, Cooper found a baby book of names and found the name “David” which means “beloved warrior.”
“I knew my child would have to be a warrior to fight this,” she said.
Then an ultrasound showed a shape much like a cross under her child.
“I knew if she made it that God is with her,” she said which led to her middle name, Emmanuelle.
Dravet’s Syndrome is unlike epilepsy in that the medications used to treat epilepsy do not work on Dravet’s.
“She has had seizures 19 hours at a time,” she said.
Cupcake faces more surgeries in her future and the possibility of respiratory failure, the mother said.
Hebert explained that the Blue Santa program presents gifts to the needy and always tries to find a special needs child to assist at Christmas.
“This is what the program is all about,” Hebert said.
Cooper is unable to work outside the home because of the severity of Cupcake’s medical condition. Instead she is home with the child 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“God has blessed me with angels on the police force, angels that are her doctors, angels everywhere all the time,” she said. “I am blessed and highly favored.”