Powhatan County and beyond rallies behind Cooper Stuart

Doctors recently discovered a tumor in the brain of Cooper Stuart, right, shown here with his younger brother Reece, that had to be removed through surgery.

POWHATAN – People from far and wide recently rallied around an 11-year-old Powhatan County boy who underwent surgery last week to remove a tumor from his brain.

Cooper Stuart of Powhatan will turn 12 on Friday thanks to a lifesaving surgery he received last week. Cooper is the son of Renee and Ray Stuart.

A medical team at VCU Medical Center successfully removed a mass 5 cm in diameter from Cooper’s brain in a surgery that began shortly after noon on Wednesday, June 12 and finished up after 1 a.m. the next day, according to a post on the Cooper Strong PVA Facebook page from the family.

“The doctors did not have to disrupt the brain matter at all, thereby alleviating potential for permanent damage. Because the divot where the mass was needs time to decompress, Cooper could experience some temporary strength loss on his left side until the decompression becomes complete,” they wrote.

About 12 hours later, they posted again, saying a post operative MRI showed that about 25 percent of the mass remained in place in his head. The remaining piece was “not within the view range of the surgeons during the operation as they were working through microscopic instruments.” The news was disheartening to Cooper’s parents, who were told earlier in the day that the entire tumor had been removed.

After the surgery, Cooper was sedated but doing well, said Nancy Parker, a family friend and a teacher at Pocahontas Elementary School, where Cooper and his younger brother, Reece, 9, are students.

The portion of the tumor that the doctors were able to remove was sent to a pathologist for evaluation and it was expected to take several days to receive results. The Facebook post from Cooper’s parents described being in a holding pattern until they had the results from the pathologist and knew if measures such as more surgery or chemotherapy might be required.

Another post from Friday afternoon said Cooper was alert and getting closer to his personality.

In the posts, Ray expressed gratitude for the way the community has rallied around his family with support, donations, and prayers.

“This is a prime example of what can be achieved through love, caring, and through our Lord,” he wrote.

Support has only grown for the Stuarts since the community started learning last week about their story. Cooper was just like any active, exuberant 11-year-old until the family returned home from watching a local baseball game on June 6 and he passed out and started having seizures, Parker said.

After paramedics arrived and stabilized the little boy, they transported him to Chippenham Hospital. Tests revealed that Cooper had a large mass in the right ventricle of his brain that was causing pressure and bleeding in the brain, Parker said. He was then flown to VCU Pediatric ICU.

In the days leading up to the surgery, doctors had to do two surgeries to put stents in Cooper’s brain to drain fluid to relieve pressure. At one point, one of his lungs also collapsed, Parker said.

When he hasn’t been in a medically induced coma or sedated so he doesn’t mess with his tubes, Cooper has wanted to get up and move around, Parker said. He is a normally a very active young man, so being still has been a challenge.

Parker said friends and family of the Stuarts have been trying to support them as much as possible. Ray was diagnosed with Kennedy’s disease three years ago and has to be in a wheelchair most of the time, so the parents can’t totally split responsibilities and have been reliant on others to help, including Cooper’s older siblings and friends of the family. Renee is a teacher in Chesterfield County.

“We are taking turns either being at the hospital with them or helping with Reece,” Parker said, adding that the hospital staff has also been wonderful.

Emotionally, she said Ray and Renee are struggling. No parent wants this to happen to their child, and this family was already very close.

“Of course our children are our whole world, but for Ray and Renee, this 100 percent is their world,” Parker said.

Parker described Cooper as an amazingly kind-hearted boy who is always looking out for other people. At Pocahontas Elementary, she works with children with autism and said Cooper often either helps her or plays with the children and makes sure they feel equal.

Cooper loves sports, especially basketball, playing music and singing. His parents are Virginia Tech alumni so all of them are huge Hokies fans and he also loves watching the Lakers. He is also very active.

“He is a fun-loving, athletic boy. Kids nowadays like to sit in front of the TV. He and his brother are always outside playing in the yard,” Parker said.

Pocahontas Elementary held two fundraisers to help the Stuart family with medical expenses. One called Caps for Cooper had children paying a $1 a day all week if they wanted to wear a baseball cap or hat. They also did Change for Cooper, where they brought in loose change.

On the day before Cooper’s surgery, the school encouraged everyone to wear Virginia Tech colors in honor of Cooper.

A Go Fund Me account has also been set up and had raised more than $12,000 of a $25,000 goal as of the end of the week. The page is at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-for-cooper-and-family.

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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