`Drew's Dream'; Fundraiser at playground will honor memory, leave legacy of boy who loved firetrucks.
SHREWSBURY - Like most little boys, Andrew "Drew" Paul Stevens loved firefighters and their big red trucks. He loved looking up to the sky and swinging high on the school playground. But probably most of all Drew liked other children, and they were crazy about him.
"This is a child, who at 3 years old the teachers were amazed at how socially adept he was. They tell the story of two boys arguing because they wanted to sit with Drew. Drew tells them, `That's OK. I'll sit between you.' And he put a chair in between the two boys and sat there, and everybody was happy," his mother, Susan, recalled.
That's when life was good. From the time he was born May 15, 2007, Drew developed normally. He was a happy child with an infectious smile and a vivacious personality. About 5 a.m. March 18, 2011, after dealing with one of those bugs that children get, Drew woke up having a massive seizure. Ms. Stevens said she and her husband, Charles, called 911 and their son was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where CT scans and other tests were run, but doctors were unable to determine the cause. Physicians at Children's Hospital in Boston were also baffled.
Nearly every day, Drew seized and vomited, and local paramedics were called 15 to 20 times in less than a year. He lost weight, and he finally stopped talking and could barely walk. He was on different cocktails of medication. Doctors even tried to treat him with steroids, but that didn't help much.
On Jan. 17, 2012, he underwent a brain biopsy to rule out some very rare types of diseases. Doctors did find that Drew had a mild form of cortical dysplasia, a common cause of pediatric epilepsy, but it was not severe enough to cause the symptoms that he was having. But, for some unexplained reason, the seizures stopped after the biopsy.
"Really, it was a head scratcher," said Mrs. Stevens. "Premier pediatric neurologists all over the country were involved in his case and looking at his files. Based on all the tests, they really could not understand what was happening."
Drew was started on an intravenous immunoglobulin treatment given to seizure patients that cleans out the immune system and gives it a boost.
Within two weeks, he began walking and talking again and he was able to go back to school and start playing soccer with the Shrewsbury Youth Soccer league.
"Miraculously, to everyone's amazement, Drew was coming back. He put back on weight. It was truly amazing. We all thought he had turned a corner," Mrs. Stevens said.
With their only child beginning to make significant improvements, Mr. and Mrs. Stevens decided to go on a much-needed three-day getaway to Bermuda. Mr. Stevens' mother and his cousin, a nursing student, agreed to stay with Drew. While his parents were away, Drew died in his sleep on April 27, 2012.
Mrs. Stevens said doctors believe Drew died from SUDEP, or sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, but they really aren't sure.
The experience, Mrs. Stevens said, is truly a parent's worst fear.
"I always said you watch TV and you see things on TV, and you never think you'll be that family," she said, beginning to cry. "What's crazy about the whole thing is they still don't know what to attribute it to."
The Stevens and members of the community including staff at Parker Road Preschool have established "Drew's Dream," a fundraiser to restore the playground at Parker Road Preschool and make it accessible to children with special needs and mobility issues. The first phase will be to purchase and install a firetruck play structure.
The fundraiser is part of the annual "Kids Equipment Day," a free, family-oriented event at which children are able to ride in a dump truck and climb on municipal vehicles and equipment.
The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Municipal Garage at 211 South St. Donations can also be made at www.drewslifelegacy.com or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/drewsdreampage.
Maria Grimshaw, the speech-language pathologist who worked with Drew at Parker Road Preschool, said Drew still brings a smile to her face.
"He was a child, whether you met him for a minute or spent a lot of time with him, he changed your life. He was just that kind of little boy, and every time I think of him, I smile," she said.
What: Fundraiser to restore the playground at Parker Road Preschool
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Municipal Garage at 211 South St.
Contact Elaine Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @EThompsonTG.
CUTLINE: Andrew "Drew" Paul Stevens had a wonderful smile and a vivacious personality. The 4-year-old boy died from what doctors believe was sudden unexplained death in epilepsy.
PHOTOG: Submitted Photo