By Avery Hudkins
Could you imagine stepping onto a basketball court with the fluorescent lights beating down on you after being precisely moments away from death over just a month ago? Incredible right? That’s exactly what Carson Cooper, a senior at Jenks high school, did this basketball season.
Diagnosed with Minimal Change as a freshman, Cooper was told by doctors, “He would outgrow it eventually.” However, that has not been the case. Minimal Change is a disease that affects the kidneys and can lead to nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disease that is characterized by loss of proteins and edema. This leads to swelling, low blood proteins, high cholesterol levels, and more dangerous effects to the body.
Usually only affecting kids from ages six to twelve, Carson is in the one percent range within young adults who have minimal change.
3 years ago when Cooper was just a freshman, he started to show symptoms of Minimal Change. After school one afternoon he showed up to his doorstep and almost passed out. A couple days later after everything seemed normal again, Carson’s mother, Dr. Cooper got a call from Carson saying, “Mom I can’t make it home,” when he was at the bus stop only two houses away.
That following weekend, Carson’s father, Dr. Cooper picked up Carson from riding dirt bikes with friends and took him to grab some lunch. Dr. Cooper noticed Carson’s forehead was swelling up tremendously. Two days later, Carson gained 30 pounds due to his body swelling up.
“One of my biggest complaints with Minimal Change is it’s misnamed. Its name makes it seem like this disease is no big deal when it really is. It can be anything from swelling to death,” Dr. Cooper says.
The Coopers have spoken with Nephrologists from Oklahoma City about the naming of Minimal Change who also agree that it is greatly misnamed.
On December 14th, 2020, Cooper was moments from passing away. Carson and his family traveled all the way to the University of North Carolina Medical Center for this chemotherapy round. Also diagnosed with Alpha-Gal syndrome, or an allergy to red meat, Cooper’s health is now twice as affected and the doctors always have to be cautious of this while doing his treatment.
After receiving an injection of Chemo in his arm, Cooper went into anaphylactic shock shortly after the doctors left the room. Unable to talk, breathe, or move, he was stuck.
Thankfully, his parents both being doctors, came to the rescue by inserting an epipen into Cooper. Soon after, 15 doctors came rushing in to help. Amazingly, Cooper remained calm in the situation even given the circumstances.
“I was a solid minute away from dying,” Cooper says.
Without his parents there to jump in, Cooper says he most likely wouldn’t have made it out alive.
Some practices Cooper can only give half of his effort due to his health conditions. Some drills are too much for his body to handle; however, he still makes the most of it and works as hard as he can.
“It is my greatest pride seeing Carson step out onto the basketball court and play. It makes me cry because that is his love. He brings an aura out there.” says Cooper’s mom.
“My bond with all the guys on the team is one of the best parts,” Cooper remarks.
Through thick and thin, Cooper finds love and support everywhere he goes.
“It’s a great feeling to have family love you and to be able to go out in public [basketball,church, school, friends, even strangers] and have them love you. It’s a completely different feeling,” says Cooper.
One of Cooper’s biggest motivations is Christ. He believes that Christ shows him how much love and care people show him when he’s truly down. He takes that as more of a blessing than a curse.
The best gift Cooper has gained from this journey is his accountability group with some amazing people. Every Sunday, Cooper, Griffin Forbes, Stephen Kittleman, and more friends get together, watch football games, and receive a short sermon from pastor, Jamie Simmons.
“I love those dudes and feel like I wouldn’t have been a part of this group without my condition. In my worst, this group has lifted me up,” Cooper says.
Faith and family are the greatest support system for the Coopers during hard times.
“My family up in New Jersey have all been an amazing support system for us. My sister has really opened up my eyes a lot. We are also so lucky to have such great doctor friends who can help us as well.” says Cooper’s mom.
Cooper likes to ask himself this question when times get tough. “Are you really going to let it affect you?” He likes to maintain a positive perception and always stands by saying, “you can either take it as a good or bad thing.” Cooper is always reminded of this verse from Proverbs 17:22 “ A joyful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Cooper feels that if you use your weakness as an advantage then it isn’t a weakness anymore.
Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Another bible verse Cooper stands by.
“How you act or what you say around people can truly make their day and bring their mood up. I always try to stay positive and be kind to all the guys on the team cause they do the same for me when I’m at my lowest points. You never know what someone is going through,” Cooper says.
“Carson’s therapy is riding motorcycles. He loves every moment of it,” his father, Dr. Cooper says.
After graduating this coming May, Cooper plans to either attend Oklahoma State University this coming fall or to play basketball at Stockington University up in Galloway Township, New Jersey, where Cooper has family who live around that area.
Coach Martin, Fin, Cal, Dahl, Sloop, and Tisadale all have motivated Cooper most on the team and his journey throughout Jenks basketball . Cooper claims when he reads John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” He envisions the coaches and how they embody this bible verse.
“They are exceptional disciples of Christ and lead his example,” Cooper says.
Sophomore year when Cooper was going through chemotherapy, Coach Martin got the whole team orange pens to wear on their bag in honor of Carson. All the coaches would wear them every game day.
“It meant a lot to me only being a sophomore and seeing all the coaches in suits on the varsity bench wearing them,” Cooper says.
Tough, determined, positive, faithful, and all things good, Cooper will continue to make the most of his basketball career overcoming any obstacles that come in his way.