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South Elgin boy recovers from brain surgery and  prepares for preschool

Jay Mindy Ostrowski with their sons Jacob 4 Connor who turns three February. Connor is recovering from rare neurological condition.

Jay and Mindy Ostrowski with their sons Jacob, 4, and Connor, who turns three in February. Connor is recovering from a rare neurological condition.

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Updated: January 28, 2013 6:36AM

This is another in a series of stories on people and events that shaped our communities in 2012.

SOUTH ELGIN — When a rare neurological condition began to virtually “erase everything from his brain,” Mindy and Jay Ostrowski of South Elgin grew determined to find answers for their infant son Connor.

Sometimes, he endured dozens of seizures each day — until last spring, when the couple finally found an answer to their prayers with a treatment plan that turned the little boy’s life around.

“Doctors (at one point had) told us he would never smile or recognize us again,” said Mindy, a fourth-grade teacher at Creekside Elementary School in Elgin.

Connor was born healthy, she explained, but seizures began when he was about 2 months old. Diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy called infantile spasms, he was put on mind-dulling, body-bloating medications, said dad Jay. The condition has a high morbidity and mental retardation rate, he added.

“It basically erases everything from the brain,” Mindy said.

A lifetime of drugs with no hope for improvement wasn’t acceptable to the Ostrowskis.

So when Connor’s visual therapist told them about a brain surgery procedure, the couple researched and pursued the option. At Cleveland Clinic, surgeons performed Connor’s procedure in March, and he’s been seizure free ever since, the Ostrowskis said.

“He’s far exceeded what we ever thought he would be developmentally,” Mindy said in mid-December. Although by doctors’ assessments “he is officially about a year to a year-and-a-half behind developmentally,” she said, “Anything he does right now is a milestone for us.”

In his day-to-day life, Connor’s adventures now include playing ball, dressing as a superhero, and laughing alongside his older brother, Jacob, who recently turned 4. Connor adores his brother and seems particularly connected to Jacob’s actions and interests. He’ll turn 3 on Feb. 24 and is set to start preschool in a District U46 special education program that month.

“I know the teachers and therapists will do a great job,” Mindy said. “But since day one, I’ve always been a part of all his therapies, learning techniques with him, etc., so I’m a little nervous now that he’s going to be off on his own.”

She’s looking forward to the interactions and shared accomplishments he’ll have with other children who face similar disabilities, she added. Jay is eager for the sense of normalcy that’s bound to come with fewer doctor visits, and more progress, in 2013.

Although the family knows it’s possible Connor might develop other forms of epilepsy down the road, for now they’re celebrating what each new day with a curious toddler brings.

“The other day there was a tray of cheese and crackers, and Connor went up and got the cheese and crackers all on his own,” said Mindy. “It might not seem like much, but to us it really is.”

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