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The extraordinary story of Tomas

Tomas, 14, was at home with his family in August 2021, when he suddenly fell to the floor and stopped breathing. Stunned, the boy's parents quickly sprang into action. Tomas' father, Jorge, performed CPR while his mother, Daniela, called 911. Despite the efforts of Jorge and the team of paramedics on the way, Tomas was unresponsive.
 

Jorge accompanied his son in the ambulance. While there was an initial conversation about which hospital to take Tomas to, Jorge immediately requested Nicklaus Children's Hospital because he believed there was no other place they wanted or needed to be.  
Upon arrival at the hospital, Tomas still had no heart function, he was urgently admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and placed on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a heart-lung bypass therapy that would give the heart time to gain strength and recover. When the doctors made the decision to remove Tomas' ECMO, he did not wake up or react as the medical staff had hoped.

 

Although his heartbeat had been restored and his brain activity appeared normal, the medical team decided to perform an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to get more information. The MRI revealed that Tomas had suffered severe damage and trauma to parts of the brain that limited and potentially eliminated basic functions, such as breathing, swallowing, speaking, seeing and walking. This meant a long, difficult and uncertain process ahead to relearn and/or regain these basic skills.

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During his time in the hospital, the staff at Nicklaus Children's worked very diligently with Tomas in numerous physical and mental therapies to help him relearn basic motor skills.

"Everyone was very supportive and found a creative way to engage and encourage Tomas on a daily basis," says Daniela. "I will never forget how many daily visits nurses, therapists and doctors made to see Tomas and say words of encouragement and celebrate each milestone achieved, whether big or small."

"Tomas is an exceptional and resilient young man who has an incredible future ahead of him," explains Dr. Meyer. "The entire Nicklaus PICU team will always be there to support him."

After just over four weeks in Nicklaus Children's PICU, 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 regimen of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, while taking math and English classes.

As a preventative measure in December 2021, Tomas underwent a procedure to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator. Today, Tomas finished ninth grade and will begin going to school full-time in the fall of 2022. Over the summer, Tomas maintained an aggressive therapy schedule while volunteering as a counselor at his school's summer camp. His incredible drive, hard work and determination have been instrumental in his recovery and his goal of being a normal teenager again. His family and the clinical staff at Nicklaus Children's are amazed at his progress.

"My son is a warrior," says Jorge de Tomas. "His will and discipline are an inspiration to all who know him. It takes a team effort to achieve every major accomplishment and we will always be grateful and blessed for our set of family, friends, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, and all the doctors, nurses and therapists who continue to be instrumental in Tomas' process."  And as Tomas likes to say, "Adversity makes you stronger."

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