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Parents of then 10-year-old Coopah-Lee faced the unthinkable when they were told the lifesaving surgery their little girl required might come at the cost of her walking again. Now 13, “Coops’’ is not just walking but dancing, thanks largely to the work of Dr Norman Ma and his team.
For most of her young life, Coops has had challenges with her legs and would often collapse without any apparent cause. Admitted to the Queensland Children’s Hospital (QCH) in 2019 after she fell 34 times in just 24 hours, an emergency MRI scan revealed a large tumour inside her spinal cord.
As the paediatric neurosurgeon on call at the time, Dr Norman Ma attended Coops and her family in their hour of need.
Coops’ mother, Bonnie, said Dr Ma was an instant soothing presence to Coops, almost immediately earning her trust.
“Dr Ma was just about the only doctor who could get near Coops without her losing the plot,” Bonnie said.
Working quickly to progress to surgery, Dr Ma advised that Coops had a 50 percent chance of never walking again.
“Faced with the news that my little girl might not walk again was obviously devastating, but we trusted Dr Ma,” Bonnie said.
“In the lead up, he would take the time to get to know Coops and would find simple ways of explaining the process to her. They even gave the tumour a name, ‘Lumphrey Humphrey’, and counted down the days until he would be removed.”
Coops and her family have recognised the paediatric neurosurgeon as the latest recipient of the Juiced TV Super Hero Award, supported by the QSuper team.
We are focused on improving our members’ wellbeing while mirroring the value they place on serving the community. So we’re proud of our relationship with Juiced TV, and the platform we have created in partnership, through the Super Hero Awards Program, for patients and their families to recognise their personal healthcare heroes.
When Dr Ma learned he was nominated for a Super Hero Award, he was humbled to know he had made such a profound impact.
“The true heroes are Coops and her family. I am not the hero alone in their story, there is a whole team who made sure she was cared for,” Dr Ma said.
“I am optimistic that the hard part is over and that Coops can just get on with her life and enjoy what she needs to be doing at her age,” he said.
“I just want to thank the QSuper team for sponsoring this award. It makes such a massive difference not only to the kids, but the doctors and nurses who think they’re just at their job but are actually doing more to the lives of others than they could ever imagine,” Bonnie said.
“Being in hospital is stressful, even when you’re an adult. You can imagine just how much worse it would be for a child,” Dr Ma said.
“It is not just the patient you have to support, you have to support the parents, too. They know the kid better than you will ever know their child, so you have to build these vital relationships.”
Dr Ma said communication was important in the treatment of Coops, especially making sure she knew what was happening to her.
Dr Ma was the chief surgeon on Coops’ procedure that successfully removed her tumour.
Coops has just reached a milestone of her rehabilitation, with MRIs and appointments with Dr Ma moving from twice a year to annually. As a show of her progress, Coops shared a video of herself dancing at her last appointment with Dr Ma.
“My favourite part of my job is seeing a kid go home, simple as that,” Dr Ma said.
QSuper and Juiced TV have recognised paediatric oncologist Dr Steve Foresto in the Super Hero Awards program.
QSuper and Juiced TV have recognised paediatric neurologist Dr Adriane Sinclair in the Super Hero Awards program.
QSuper and Juiced TV have recognised physiotherapist Rachel Thomas in the Super Hero Awards program.
QSuper and Juiced TV have recognised physiotherapist Tim McGowan in the Super Hero Awards program.