Introducing Matthew Bragiel
Matthew was born on 12/12/98, he was our middle child. He followed in his brother Joey's footsteps with everything from likes to dislikes. He attended St. Rene Goupil Grammar School and is currently a junior at St. Laurence High School. Matt played football, baseball, basketball, bowled and skied. In February 2015, Matthew started to have reoccurring stomach pain. Since Matt ate everything in the house that wasn't nailed down Kathy, his mother, and I attributed the pain to eating too much. After the pain lasted more than a week we began to think something may be wrong. The last weekend of February 2015 the family went on an annual school sponsored ski trip. Although Matt skied with his friends it seemed something was not quite right with him. Upon our arrival home Matt missed school Monday with stomach pain and Tuesday Kathy took him to Imedia-Care to have him checked. After a blood work up Kathy was informed that test showed something wasn't right, that he may be bleeding internally and that he should be taken to the emergency room immediately. Kathy took Matt to Loyola Medical Center and after a series of tests it was determined that Matt had a mass growing in his small intestines and another in his sinus cavity. Follow up tests and ultimately a biopsy revealed that Matt had non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After consultation with the oncologist and research, an intensive chemotherapy treatment plan was put in place for Matt. The treatment consisted of 6 rounds of in-patient chemotherapy each lasting 5 days. Matt started his treatments and from the very beginning problems began. After EACH and EVERY chemotherapy session Matt suffered from some type of complication, so often that even his primary oncologist told us that he'd never seen someone have such a difficult time. Matt's issues included the flu, shingles, infections and ultimately after the 5th cycle, 3 different infections at his access port. The last issue was so bad that Matt had to be put into a medically induced coma so that his body could focus alone on fighting the infection. For 14 days we watched our son, lay prone, not able to communicate or even open his eyes. I found out later from the director of the Loyola Pediatric Intensive Care Unit that she was supposed to go home the night we brought Matt in but she didn't because she didn?t know if he was going to make it through the night. It was the hardest thing in the world for us when they gave us time to say goodbye when they were about to "put him to sleep." When Matt recovered, the oncologist informed us that Matt was finished with his treatment plans. His latest PET scan showed that Matt was clear of the 2 masses (stomach and sinus cavity). In the doctor's words, "he has had enough." Matt spent 14 days in a coma and a total of 28 days in ICU. When he was brought out of the coma, Matt had to learn how to walk again. He had lain so long in bed that his leg muscles atrophied rendering him unable to walk. Matt also suffered long term effects. The infections damaged his eyesight and to this day he has trouble with his left eye. It is unknown if his left eye will ever be 100% although we remain hopeful. Today, Matt is picking up where he left off. He is trying his hardest to regain a year of his life back. He has since obtained his drivers license, applied for jobs so as not to burden my wife and I asking for money and even joined the St. Laurence hockey team (even though he never skated, again, following in his brother's footsteps). With Matthew we are adapting to the "new normal." In the past a cold was a cold, the flu was the flu and a stomach ache was a stomach ache. Now, when Matt gets these ailments, we worry, we become fearful and we pray even harder. Through it all, Matt told us all the time, ?I'll be fine.? He's our inspiration.
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