Photo by Hannah Kearse

Lockdown for little man

Colter Cross, 8, and his older sister, Ashlynn, 11, giggle behind the reflection of Fan Mountain in the window. The siblings squirmed about the living room. Their smiles were big.

His t-shirt covers the scar on his chest from the two open heart surgeries that he had before he was in elementary school. He has also had five cardiac casts. Looking at Colton, it is not obvious that he has a high risk of medical complications if he contracts the coronavirus.

“We get our flu vaccinations,” Colter’s mother, Bobbie said. “That’s our peace of mind during the flu season.”

But a vaccination for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 does not exist. The Cross’ were ahead of school closures and 

government orders to quaran- tine at home. Bobbie, a night shift nurse at the Madison Valley Medical Center, will work from home to avoid re- turning with the virus. Shortly after Ashlynn and Colter were pulled out of Ennis Schools for precaution, the governor closed all Montana public schools.

Colter was 10 days old when he had his first open heart surgery. He was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease during his first pediatric visit. It is a rare condition called truncus arteriosus, which caused complications and a hole in the bottom of his heart.

“In one day, we found out he would need open heart sur- gery to survive,” Bobbie said.

He spent the next three months of his life hooked up to machines in the hospital. He spent the next three years with a feeding tube down his throat.

“He eats like a horse now,” Bobbie said. “You wouldn’t know.”

A pediatric cardiologist has to treat Colter, and the closest one is in Missoula. Colter represents a population vulnerable to a novel virus outbreak. Adults and children with heart diseases, asthma, diabetes, cancers or other health condi- tions are at a heightened risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19 coronavirus.

Susceptive students, like Colter, will complete their course loads indefinitely at home. Colter will throw a football in the living room and play with his dog outside in between assignments.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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