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KIDS WITH COURAGE: Nora Severson

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 9:14 AM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- KTTC is honored to introduce viewers monthly to some of the youngest among us, facing the unthinkable with bravery and optimism. In our eighth “Kids With Courage” segment, Caitlin Alexander introduces us to 3.5-year-old Nora Severson.

“The name sign that we have for Nora is a ‘n’ and a smile because she is spunky and smiley and just go, go, go,” Nora’s mom, Shawna Cooper explained.

KIDS WITH COURAGE: Nora Severson
KIDS WITH COURAGE: Nora Severson(KTTC)

On the spring day KTTC stopped by, Nora was having fun with sidewalk chalk. One could tell how much fun she was having by how much of it wound up on her face! But that’s just sweet Nora.

“I would call her one of the most mischievous, smart, full-of-life kids that you’d ever meet, but she’s also one of the toughest,” Shawna said.

“There’s just so much joy in this little body,” agreed Nora’s father, Kirk Severson.

Between surgeries and illness, Nora spent at least 89 days in the hospital before she turned 2.

Heart issues can be common in children with Down syndrome. Nora needed surgery on hers when she was just 2.5 months old.

The day after her surgery, Nora suffered cardiac arrest. She had to be put on a life support machine called ECMO. Once she was weaned off of that, she spent the next couple weeks on a ventilator.

Shawna and Kirk feared the worst.

“Sitting next to a bed with my baby in it, not knowing if I was going to get to take her home,” Shawna recalled.

Nora spent that first Halloween in the hospital.

KIDS WITH COURAGE: Nora Severson
KIDS WITH COURAGE: Nora Severson(KTTC)

Mayo Clinic’s Child Life Program, which supports kids and their families, worked to make it special.

“They came down with the glue gun and the pom poms and puff paint,” Shawna smiled.

After Nora was released from the hospital, it became clear it wouldn’t be for long.

Standard daycare colds hit Nora hard and often landed her in the hospital. One trip to the hospital for fluids led to a 29-day stay.

Child Life, again, found ways to try to brighten her day and help her trust people in those sometimes scary yellow gowns.

“I think one of my favorite interactions and playful moments that I had with Nora in the hospital was when we introduced paint maybe for the first time,” said Certified Child Life Specialist Mikaela Sullivan at Mayo Clinic. “Many pictures to prove how much fun she had that day.”

Nora never lost her interest in playing, even when tubes were in the way.

KIDS WITH COURAGE: Nora Severson
KIDS WITH COURAGE: Nora Severson(KTTC)

She’s had procedures for an array of other issues, including for her tear ducts, ears, tonsils and airway. She has been through lung scopes and sleep studies. She also has difficulties with consuming liquids.

Nora wears bilateral bone conduction hearing aids on a headband. She knows more than 100 signs.

With the pandemic over the past year, Nora and her family have been in a true quarantine: no in-person visits and no trips to stores.

Nora does things like preschool, dance class, play dates and music therapy on video calls.

Destiny Boyum is a board-certified music therapist with Healing Rhythms, LLC and has been working with Nora virtually on things like direction following.

“I would describe her as always playful and fun-loving,” Boyum said.

As the world opens up, Nora’s family hopes people understand COVID-19 mitigation measures are there for a reason.

“These are real people, and they’re people like my daughter,” Shawna said.

Through hospital stays, quarantine and yes, some bad days, this Kid With Courage will keep on smiling.

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