Colson was first diagnosed with pneumonia when he was 2 years old. Pneumonia returned frequently in the years that followed, and each year, the illness seemed to get worse. “It was never on anyone’s radar that there might be something more serious,” recalls Colson’s mother, Emily Sparks. That was until March 2020, when Colson was 10 years old, and a serious case of pneumonia and the flu sent him to the pediatric intensive care unit in their hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, for three days. “His entire lung was covered with pneumonia, and we were having discussions about possibly putting him on a ventilator,” she says.
After Colson’s hospitalization, his family began meeting with local specialists to learn why the pneumonia kept returning. It was then that doctors discovered a cyst in the bottom of Colson’s right lung, also known as “bronchopulmonary sequestration,” which made it difficult for him to breathe and run. The cyst was collecting bacteria, and had its own blood vessel sources, which was causing him to continue becoming extremely sick. Doctors explained that Colson needed to have that part of his lung removed in order to prevent him from getting sick again. Without the surgery, doctors cautioned that Colson ran the risk of developing lung cancer.
After doing research, his parents consulted with a care team at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center — including pediatric surgeon Shaun Kunisaki, one of a handful of surgeons in the country who could perform the specialized surgery. In June 2020 — because of his condition and the COVID-19 pandemic, a flight was not an option — Colson and his mom made the more than 15-hour drive to Baltimore for a successful five-hour surgery to remove part of his lung. Now, two years later, Emily says Colson is a happy, active 12-year-old who plays soccer. “It is a miracle I found a place like Johns Hopkins,” Colson says. “They changed my life for the better.”