Serious asthma attack can’t keep 9-year-old Andre Crespin down
Asthma has always been a part of Andre Crespin’s life.
An asthma attack at 1 a.m. on Sept. 27, 2009, seemed to be a typical attack for Andre, who was 8 years old at the time.
“Everything seemed cool and fine,” said Andre’s father, Lee Crespin.
Little did the family know that things were far from OK.
“At about 4 o’clock he woke us up again and he just couldn’t breathe,” Lee said, “so we started him on his breathing nebulizer treatment and it wasn’t working.”
Lee, who also has asthma, gave Andre three doses of his nebulizer treatment, which had little effect on the attack.
“That’s when we loaded him into the truck and took off,” Lee said.
The truck ride was the beginning of a panic-filled night. The young wrestler and football player came within minutes of dying.
By November, though, Andre was back on mat, and this spring played football for the Fruita Rams 7-9 year-old team.
Watching Andre from a distance on the football field, it would be hard to pick him out as the one who nearly died, who at one point had more than a dozen IV tubes administering medication to keep him alive.
He’s smaller than some of his teammates, but makes up for it with speed and a never-quit attitude. If he’s going down, he’s going down fighting. Even when asthma tried to keep him down, Andre, now 9, wouldn’t let it win.
“As soon as we got home he’s like ‘I’m gonna get back,’ ” Lee said. “He told me, ‘I’m going to be bigger, faster, stronger.’ “
The road to recovery was much easier in theory.
Once the family got in the truck early that morning, it was a race against time from their home in Fruita to St. Mary’s Hospital.
“He just kept having a panic attack and he was just jumping from my arms to the seat, back and forth, and the last time I just remember that he fell in my arms and he just passed out,” Andre’s mother, Candy, recalled.
“He quit breathing. I just remember his lips were blue and I just kept hollering at my husband to go faster, just to hurry up and get us to the hospital.”
Lee said the truck reached 120 miles per hour on the way to the hospital. Near Mesa Mall, Andre passed out. When they arrived, Lee grabbed his son. Details after that are a little hazy, he said.
“I remember grabbing him from my wife. His hands were blue. He was all blue but he was cold, his hands were cold,” Lee said.
“I just remember grabbing him and taking off running, past the security guard. I don’t know if I handed him (through) the emergency room window or if I kicked the door open ... I’ve heard two things ... either way, there was a team of doctors waiting to work on him.”
By then, Andre’s heart had stopped beating.
“They didn’t expect him to make it,” Lee said. “They let us be there while they were working on him. Usually they don’t, but it sounded like they didn’t think he was going to make it, so (family members) were able to stay in there while they were working on him.”
After what doctors estimated to be five minutes without oxygen, they were able to get Andre breathing again. Although the lack of oxygen left him with some short-term memory problems at first, there was no permanent brain damage.
Late that morning, the decision was made to send Andre to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. At 11:30 a.m., he left on a 30-minute flight, with little optimism for recovery.
“Once we got to St. Luke’s, the battles began,” Lee said. “His lungs collapsed, his heart was just racing — they had to watch him for cardiac arrest. It was just wild.”
Andre’s lungs collapsed three times in all, and he also came down with pneumonia.
The combination of problems left Andre connected to 14 IV tubes in his wrists, forearms and legs.
He was also on a feeding tube, a breathing machine and had a bed that monitored his weight.
“If his weight changed, if it dropped, they had to adjust the medication because he was on so much that if he got, basically like a drop more, it would have overdosed him and killed him,” Lee said.
Through everything, Andre showed signs of life. At one point doctors administered anesthesia, but Andre didn’t go to sleep — he was very much awake, squeezing Lee’s hand.
“Right then and there, everybody knew he was going to be fine,” Lee said.
When he finally got out of the hospital on Oct. 16, Andre, an active kid who climbed trees, rode his bike and played sports, couldn’t even walk.
“It was like having a newborn baby again, because you pretty much had to feed him and change him and show him how to do certain things that any normal 8-year-old would know how to do,” Candy said.
The family received quite a bit of support from the community to help cover medical costs. Fly’n Roosters at First Street and Grand Avenue had a car show to benefit Andre, and the Fruita City Market, where Lee works, did several fundraisers for the family.
The family has set up the Andre Crespin Benefit Account at the Sooper Credit Union at 2440 F Road in Grand Junction.
As he recovered, Andre asked about things he had missed, including the Monster Match Nationals, a wrestling tournament in Denver he had been training for. Another thing that bothered him was missing Denver Broncos games.
“He knew something was wrong because he’s a Broncos fan and we had already played three games and he didn’t know where (the time) went,” Lee said.
Andre battled through relearning basic motor skills and dealt with missing nearly four weeks of his life.
“He never once said anything bad, never complained, just pushed through it.” Lee said.
Andre, who began wrestling at the age of 3, wasn’t expected to be able to play sports again.
In November, though, he was cleared to start wrestling practice.
Jeff McKinley, one of Andre’s wrestling coaches, said when Andre returned, they let him go at his own pace.
“He’s a smart kid,” McKinley said. “He knows how hard he can push and how hard he can go.”
There was some hesitation in letting Andre wrestle again, but “you’ve got to let your kids be kids,” Candy said. In January, Andre won the Fruita Mat Cat Invitational.
“It was the toughest tournament he had ever done,” Lee said. “He placed first, but he was only at 65 percent recovery. He had to fight.”
Andre remembers the tournament as being fun, although the hard part was “not getting tired,” he said.
Andre gave his medal to the staff at St. Luke’s.
He sprained a muscle in his back before football season, but recovered five months ahead of doctors’ initial prediction of a year.
Lee credits much of it to Andre’s self-motivation.
“We don’t push him, we don’t ask him to do nothing,” Lee said. “I’ve just got this little workout for him, it’s all body resistance. He goes through and he can work out for 15 minutes up to 45 minutes a day and he just does it. He’s naturally driven, he has a passion for sports and I think that’s what helped him a lot.”
Andre still isn’t out of the woods. Until his breathing passages open up, around the time he reaches puberty, any asthma attack could be lethal. The family has learned more about preventative measures to keep it from happening again and is helping Andre gain weight and get stronger in case he does have another serious attack.
Andre has an idea of how close he came to dying, even if he doesn’t fully understand how much he overcame. His family and his coaches notice a different attitude since September.
“I feel like he’s stronger now,” McKinley said. “I think mentally he’s tougher. He’s more devoted, more dedicated. He’s keeping himself in better shape and he doesn’t let the little things bother him anymore.”
For Andre’s family, the ordeal put a lot in perspective.
“For me, as a family it’s like ‘we made it,’ ” Lee Crespin said. “I don’t think there’s much more life can throw at us. I think we can handle …”
“Pretty much anything,” Candy says, finishing his sentence.
“He inspires us to not give up,” Lee continued. “Even with our (financial issues), it’s like ‘You know what? We’ve got him. We’re not giving up, we’re just going to keep going forward.’ ”