Aidan Shea

Aidan's Illness

Aidan’s illness comprised a short five days of his life. Aidan was a healthy 10-year-old boy leading up to December 6, 2015. Besides a broken arm as an infant and some slight asthma when he had a cold, he was totally healthy and normal.

On Friday, December 4, Aidan came home from school mid-day with a headache. His brother had had a slight touch of the flu earlier that week so his parents presumed he had caught the same bug. He rested in the afternoon and his headache went away with Tylenol. He was feeling better by early evening so drove downtown with his nanny Sarah and brothers to meet his dad at a Chicago Bulls Family Night event. He toured the locker rooms, met some players and talked his dad into buying him some really expensive Bulls track pants (which he insisted on putting on in the bathroom immediately after purchase). He had a great time.

On Saturday, Aidan ran around town all day with his family as normal. His brothers were attending Y-ball basketball tryouts at the same time in different locations so Aidan attended Connor’s tryout with his mom. He complained of a headache on the way over so she stopped to get him some Tylenol on the way. He reported that he felt totally fine about an hour later. The family attended a get together with several families in Elmhurst on Saturday night. Aidan’s parents are lucky enough to have several law school classmate couples who married and live in Elmhurst, and the families get together regularly. The party lasted until almost 11PM and Aidan and his brothers were playing video games, running around, eating pizza and having fun the entire time. No headache or other health complaints from Aidan at all.

Sunday morning, Aidan’s swim team, the Oakbrook Tiger Sharks, held a a swim-a-thon to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation. They ultimately ended up donating the funds raised at the event to Aidan’s Foundation. Aidan and his mom were out of the house by 7AM to head over to the event. Aidan swam 32 laps. He stopped partway through complaining that he was thirsty and jumped out for some juice and donuts. His mom counted his and other participants’ laps as they swam them. On the way out of the pool, Aidan convinced his mom to buy him a bunch of Tiger Sharks swag for “Christmas”. He had the sweatshirt on before they were home. He had recently learned the truth about Santa and convinced his mom that it didn’t make sense to wait until Christmas to get something he wanted so desperately now. 

All three of the Shea boys attended Religious Education at Visitation at 10:30AM.  December 6 was a Family Session so Aidan’s mom attended with the boys. They worked on Advent crafts and participated in a prayer session at which Aidan volunteered to do a reading, with a microphone, in front of the several hundred people in attendance. He was very proud of himself!

At 12PM, the boys returned home for lunch before their 1PM choir practice. The boys participated in a seasonal non-denominational holiday choir through Emmanuel Lutheran Church on Spring Road in Elmhurst. Aidan’s mom went upstairs to take a nap after lunch and Aidan’s dad took the boys to choir, only a few blocks from home. Aidan complained of a headache on the way to choir.

Around 1:15PM, Aidan borrowed a cell phone from one of the adults at choir practice and dialed home. When his dad answered, Aidan was crying and said that his head was hurting terribly. His dad said he would be right there to pick him up. His brothers helped move Aidan over to a couch in the back of church and he lay down. They got him water and waited with him the five minutes until his dad arrived.

When Aidan’s dad arrived, he was laying on the ground. He had attempted to get up to walk when he saw his dad come in the door but couldn’t maintain his balance. As his dad started to talk to him, he became very scared and emotional, saying, “I can see you talking, Daddy, but I can’t hear your voice.” Aidan couldn’t walk so his dad picked him up and carried him to the family’s minivan. He laid Aidan down in the back and drove as fast as he could to the emergency room.  On the way there, Aidan stopped breathing. The Elmhurst ER team ran out to the van when they pulled in and resuscitated Aidan. But he remained unconscious from that point forward. His mom arrived a few minutes later. The doctors informed Aidan’s parents that they believed he had suffered some sort of brain bleed that caused him to stop breathing.

Aidan was transported an hour later by ambulance to Lurie Children’s Hospital. Emergency surgery was performed on Aidan’s brain during the afternoon and evening of December 6. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding in his brain stem but had to remove several damaged portions of his brain during the procedure. The brain stem is the “mother board” of the brain and controls all key life functions, including respiration, temperature control, glucose processing, and heart function. Aidan was placed in the Pediatric ICU at Lurie that evening and remained there until he passed away, with his parents at his side, on Thursday, December 10. Aidan did not regain consciousness during his illness. The damage to his brain was severe and the location of bleed unfortunately made it irreparable.