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?He's a champ': Local toddler beats the odds

News Enterprise - 10/8/2017

For Emily Hargis and her family, her 18-month-old, Elijah Hargis, is a miracle baby.

Elijah was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was four months old. Doctors believe he suffered a perinatal stroke that caused the condition. At the time, Elijah's prognosis wasn't great, his mother said.

Doctors said he wouldn't walk or talk, and if he did, he could have developmental disabilities. Now, Elijah is able to walk on his own and has about 15 words in his vocabulary. Emily said his cognitive development is above-average.

"He hasn't let any of this stop him," Emily said. "He's very determined."

Emily wanted to share her son's story to give others hope.

"It's been a long journey," she said. "Every day isn't perfect, but he makes progress every day. For that, we're thankful. ... We never thought he would be where he is today."

Emily doesn't know what's in store for Elijah long-term.

"We don't make any guesses," she said. "He's beat every odd and is the exact opposite of everything we've been told."

Emily first thought something was wrong when Elijah was three months old. He was reaching and grabbing but only with his right hand. A neurologist told her that Elijah had a right mid-cerebral artery stroke either when she was pregnant or during his first 30 days of life.

"As a mom, you don't want anything to be wrong with your kid," she said. "It was all overwhelming to hear it at one time."

She wondered how she was going to take care of him and help him, especially with her husband deployed. Matt Hargis, her husband, serves in the U.S. Air Force and was deployed when Elijah was born. He's currently deployed, and he's scheduled to return home in January.

"We decided that when we found out, it is what it is," she said. "We were going to make it work and get the best possible help, so he'll be able to do the things he wants to do."

She said her family has been crucial in helping with Elijah.

"I couldn't have done it without them," she said.

Elijah has occupational and physical therapy once a week through First Steps, an early-intervention program. He's currently wearing a cast on his right arm as a way to get him to use his left.

He's been wearing the cast for two weeks and Emily said it's been a long two weeks. He's frustrated because his arm was his lifeline and now he can't play with his toys the way he used to.

"He doesn't fully understand what's going on," she said.

He'll have the cast on for four weeks and then take four weeks off. The rotation will continue until he's using his left hand.

Emily said Elijah will adapt as he grows and his brain develops. She said other parts in his brain will learn to pick up what he's lacking.

"He's so tough," Emily said. "Nothing phases him. Half the time, I think I'm more upset than he is. He's a champ."

Elijah is a fan of Mickey Mouse, loves any type of animal and anything on wheels, Emily said.

His favorite toys are trucks.

"He loves them all equally," she said.

Elijah said his first words, "Bye Dad," while on a video call with his father.

"Matt missed so many milestones and it meant a lot for him to be there for that particular one," she said.

Elijah turns 2 in March. On Friday, he wore a shirt that said, "Someday I'll move mountains."

"I think he will," she said. "Nothing gets in his way. I don't think he'll ever let his disability tell him no."


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