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Miracle child Ayden Hopper turns 4, now cancer-free
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Jonathan Pinilla, 5, plays Saturday during Ayden Hopper’s birthday party at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville. Friends and family in the community came out to celebrate Ayden’s birthday. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Ayden Hopper is a miracle.

If you ask anyone who’s met him or knows his story, that’s what they’ll tell you.

With all of the odds stacked against him and while his family waited anxiously, he has successfully reached his fourth birthday, cancer free and doing well.

His day of birth, Jan. 21, 2012, didn’t go so smoothly.

“We almost lost him,” Margaret Hopper, Ayden’s mother, said.

His heart rate was low, so doctors performed an emergency C-section. When they did, doctors found Ayden’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his body. Not only that, but it was the width of a pencil and didn’t have the protective gel around it most cords do.

His umbilical cord snapped and both mother and son began bleeding out.

“It wasn’t the picture-perfect thing you always think of,” Hopper said.

Doctors told Hopper that her son wouldn’t have lived if he hadn’t been born with a C-section.

“We were all pretty upset about it,” Jerry Moore, Ayden’s maternal grandfather, said. “He looked pretty bad the first day or two.”

But, Moore said, they put their faith in God.

“He was really a miracle,” Moore said.

In fact, Brenda Moore, Ayden’s maternal grandmother, said they researched the condition and found out his problem has only occurred in four other boys, and none survived.

His umbilical cord didn’t develop correctly, though his mother was given a clean bill of health beforehand.

“We didn’t know he had any kind of special needs before he was born,” Hopper said.

After that, he had trouble feeding and was showing signs of Down syndrome. Ayden was tested and it took a week to get the results back. Doctors told Hopper her son had Down syndrome, but told her it was finally time to go home.

But Ayden’s bad luck didn’t end there. The tot was only two weeks old when doctors realized his white blood cells were much too high. He was transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta-Egleston and was diagnosed with transient myeloproliferative disorder.

“It’s a blood disease. It has all the same symptoms and signs of leukemia,” Hopper said.

TMD is also only found in children with Down syndrome, which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.

Research is still being done to determine why, but the type of blood disorder Ayden has usually goes away without chemotherapy or any kind of treatment.

Children with Down syndrome are at a particularly high risk level for developing leukemia. Since Ayden already had similar type of blood disease linked to leukemia, his chances were even higher.

For the past four years, his parents have shuffled him back and forth from the cancer clinic every three months for a checkup.

“It’s scary,” Hopper said. “It’s also so hard, because you see families in there with children who have cancer.”

Since then, Ayden has had the greatest help he could ask for, according to Brenda Moore. His parents have stuck by his side, including the research Margaret Hopper has undertaken in order to keep herself informed and her son healthy.

Ayden is allergic to all kinds of grains and milk products, so for his birthday party, she put together a banana and coconut milk concoction for her child.

As of Jan. 14 of this year, however, the Hoppers no longer have to take Ayden to get his blood work done. He’s been officially discharged from the hospital.

So parents Margaret and Jonathan Hopper threw him a basketball-themed celebration at the Lakewood Baptist Church gym.

“Ayden just loves, loves, loves basketball,” Brenda Moore said.

After everything the family has been through, they wanted to put together a big party to also thank everyone who has supported them.

“We just can’t imagine a life without him,” Brenda Moore said. “He’s such a blessing.”

Sometime soon, the Make-a-Wish Foundation is sending the Hoppers on a vacation to the beach.