Harbour Grace boy a miracle child

Severe asthma attack left Matthew Verge fighting for his life

Melissa Jenkins melissa.jenkins@tc.tc
Published on January 31, 2016
The Verge family in Harbour Grace went through quite the ordeal when son Matthew experienced a severe asthma attack.
Photo by Melissa Jenkins/The Compass

When Matthew Verge of Harbour Grace woke up after a week in a coma in May 2014, he was shocked to hear what he missed.

The now 10-year-old had been airlifted to the Janeway Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre after a brush with death. He had a spasm in his lungs that closed off his airway and he stopped breathing.

"When I first woke up in the hospital, I saw dad and a nurse," Matthew recalled for The Compass last week. "They asked me, 'Do you know how long you've been unconscious?'"

It was then he was told that it had been a week since the episode in his home.

The Janeway is one of North America's Children's Miracle Network hospitals. Each year a child is chosen from each hospital and named the champion. This year that child for Newfoundland and Labrador is Matthew.

Matthew and two of his three sisters - Emily, eight, and Alyssa, 12 - are asthmatic. His oldest sister Taylor, 15, who does not have asthma, could remember the evening well.

"He started coughing and couldn't breathe," Taylor explained. "He started to sweat a lot."

She called her grandmother, who lived up the street.

"Normally she wouldn't have been home, but she was home this day," dad Paul said.

Emily had just finished taking a babysitting course, so when her grandmother, who works in the medical field, arrived, the two began doing artificial respiration - manually breathing into his mouth to simulate real breaths.

After spending a few hours at Carbonear General Hospital, we was airlifted to St. John's. Once Matthew arrived and was situated in the intensive care unit (ICU), a doctor told them what had happened to Matthew's lungs.

"They got us in the room," his mother Christina recalled. "They told us he might not make it through the night."

But he made it through the night. Then he made it through the next day. With every hour that passed, the family was more hopeful he would pull through. It was unknown at that time if there would be any health issues due to the length of time Matthew was without oxygen. Luckily, there were none.

During a brain scan, it showed Matthew's brain responding to his mom talking to him. This was a good sign. The only lingering issue is aesthetic.

"I have a bald spot on the back of my head," he said and as he turned to show The Compass reporter.

Champion child

When the Verge family was asked to return to the Janeway one year after the incident, they had no idea why.

"We came into the building and sat down in the chairs and we were told, 'Guess what Verges? You're going to Florida,'" Matthew said with excitement.

Later this winter the family will rendezvous with other Canadian champion families in Toronto. They will then head south to sunny Florida to meet up with the 54 champion children from the United States.

An official announcement will be made at Walmart in Carbonear on Wednesday, Feb. 3. At that time, Matthew's face will be seen at Walmarts all over Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I'm going to be a celebrity," Matthew exclaimed with a giggle.

It took a long time for the family to get over the life-altering ordeal that Matthew experienced. Even sister Emily refused to babysit for a long time after.

Since Matthew was hospitalized, he has seen a specialist. Between medications and education, the family has been overwhelmed with information on asthma that none of them were aware of before Matthew got sick.

"We're more aware," Paul added. "What happened to Matthew could happen to anyone out there."

The Verge family want to educate the public on the severity of asthma education.

"You need to be very vigilant," Christina said. "We don't want someone else to go through that."

You can read more about the Verges in the Feb. 2 edition of The Compass.