Rickey Cooper has spent much of the last several months feeling numb from the chest down, enduring pain so intense his mother has packed him in ice to diffuse it.
The 13-year-old Highlands Ranch boy, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, still attends classes at Mountain Ridge Middle School. A former football player, Rickey uses a walker to travel the school’s hallways, and pauses four times each day to ingest the oxycodone that dulls the pain to a manageable level.
To help out, the school held a Dec. 13 spaghetti dinner and silent auction fundraiser for Rickey and his mother, Nicky. It also has set up an online donation opportunity through the school website.
The teenager is her only child, and Nicky is a single, working mom with minimal family support but bottomless determination.
“The one thing I want in life is to put my kid back together again; I’ll do whatever it takes to do that,” Nicky said. “Nobody has the cure. But what I want Rickey to know more than anything is that he’s such an inspiration in how much he fights. I want him to be recognized for being awesome.”
Rickey’s health problems first surfaced at age 6, when he told his mom he was seeing double.
“His neurologist said to me, `I believe this little guy’s got MS. But we’re going to hope this never ever happens to him again’,” Nicky remembered. “He suffered from migraine headaches for a long time (after that). But other than that, I was hoping we made it under the radar.”
In September, Rickey came home from football practice with another jarring report: His feet were numb.
“He’s not much of a complainer. He doesn’t like anybody to know he’s not strong,” Nicky said. “I felt like somebody hit me over the head with something. I thought, `Oh God, I wonder if he’s having a relapse.’ ”
The next day, Rickey’s legs were numb from the knees down. By the time he reached the hospital, the numbness had extended to his chest, and there it largely has stayed.
An MRI revealed lesions on his vertebrae.
Rickey returned to school in a wheelchair and has since advanced to a walker.
His future is unknown.
“We asked them if he will ever not be numb and tingly from the chest down, and they said it may go away and may get better, but it may not ever,” Nicky said.
Nicky credits her neighbors and school community for helping her through the last few months.
“It’s been so bad you don’t even know what you need,” she said.
When a Mountain Ridge staff member called to ask if they could help the family celebrate Christmas, Nicky initially resisted.
“It hadn’t even dawned on me that Christmas was coming,” she said. “I am a single mom, but I don’t ever want to pull that card. But I realized I need to put my own feelings aside and remember that would help and be good for Rickey.”
Though Rickey’s ordeal is not over, he and his mom already are turning their thoughts outward.
“He has a little notebook he keeps all his notes in (about the experience),” Nicky said. “It’s a sad little story at the moment. But someday, we’re going to help somebody else through this.”
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