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Trip Norris winning his independence from ADEM

Tripp Norris. Photo submitted.

Tripp Norris. Photo submitted.

What seemed to be a stomach virus ended up to be something much more serious. Trip Norris reported having a headache at daycare on the day he became ill. Later, the same day, the rambunctious four year-old volunteered to take a nap. All of this was reported to his mom, Aileen, when she picked him up from school, and, like most parents, she figured he was just coming down with a normal illness. During the night, Trip became sick on his stomach. Let’s face it, we have all been up during the night with a sick child, and, after a few hours, the child seems to recover. However, Trip did not. Around 5 pm on Tuesday, the child was still sick on his stomach. Aileen spoke with Dr. Michael Smith of Walterboro Family Practice by phone and he suggested taking the boy to Colleton Medical Center to be evaluated and to receive fluids. Wednesday morning, Trip was still ill. He went see Dr. Smith who diagnosed Trip with an ear infection, which in the past has also caused Trip to vomit. Wednesday night became a turning point for Trip. He began getting sick again, but this time his speech was slurred and the tone in his voice had changed. On Thursday morning, the boy returned to Dr. Smith who sent him to Colleton Medical Center again for an evaluation and more fluids.

This time the doctor noticed Trip’s pupils were two different sizes and to the family’s surprise questioned if he had a concussion or head injury.


The doctor at Colleton Medical Center ordered a CT scan which showed a sinus infection. Shortly after the scan, Trip, still in the hospital, became angry when his family could not understand what he was trying to tell them. The speech was too bad. A friend suggested the family move Trip to MUSC Children’s Hospital in Charleston. An ambulance came to Walterboro and transported the boy to Charleston; his health declined the whole way there. Once at MUSC, the staff needed to rule out meningitis. Trip was put to sleep for a painful spinal tap while his family waited for news on his condition. Meningitis was ruled out and Trip began to awake from his testing but when he awoke his condition had worsened. He was gurgling from all the water and fluid in his lungs. He had lost the ability to swallow. Trip was sent to ICU where a doctor recognized what was going on and diagnosed Trip with a rare infection known as ADEM.


ADEM stands for Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis. MUSC reports treating only a few cases each year. It is an infection that causes the immune system to attack the brain. Trip had an MRI which showed lesions on his brain and confirmed the doctors diagnosis. During this time Trip lost all reflexes and reactions. A medication was started and after three weeks Trip was able to be moved to a step down room. “It was very scary. I felt so lost and I didn’t know what to do. I knew I would have to rely on my faith. Once we found out what it was I knew better what to expect. I told the doctors this is Trip so whatever the recovery time is cut it in half because he is not your normal kid” said Aileen Norris. Trip spent one more week at MUSC in the step down room and was then sent to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was placed on a rehab floor where they taught him how to sit on his own, walk, and talk all over again. Trip managed to get well enough in just a short three weeks and was released to come home.


Trip Norris (center) with two friends from Academy Road Country Care. Photo submitted.

Trip Norris (center) with two friends from Academy Road Country Care. Photo submitted.

Many groups across Colleton County helped the Norris family during this difficult time. Coastal Electric Cooperative, where Trips father Marshall is employed, held a chicken dinner fundraiser. Friends of the family Steve and Ashley Stanley helped organize a corn hole tournament fundraiser as well. Trip’s name was on most of the prayer lists of our area churches. Riley Phillips started a facebook page to help keep the community aware of Trip’s progress as he struggled to recover. Academy Road Country Care Daycare walked each step with the Norris family. Trip was a student in their four year old program. Beverly Dantzler and Marlene Cook, employees of the daycare, went above and beyond to keep the kids at the daycare in touch with their buddy Trip. They sent their artwork to hang on his walls in ICU. A photo book was made for Trip so he could look at it to remember his friends. Cook called Trip everyday to tell him she loved him to the moon and back. She also read him bedtime stories over the phone. “Trip and I share a close bond. After he was taken off the ventilator, I went to see him in the hospital and words cannot describe how I felt when my sweet boy called out my name in the biggest voice he could. There was not a dry eye in the house” said Cook. The daycare even held a special graduation at Colleton Prep Academy when Trip was able to come home. His classmates were all very excited to be able to celebrate their graduation with their buddy.


Trip is now on the upside of recovery. He went to Levine Children’s Hospital this past week and the doctors were very impressed with his progress since leaving their rehab. He must return once more in three months before he can be fully released. He has another MRI scheduled at MUSC on July 10 and hopefully that will wrap up this ordeal for Trip and his family. For now mom, dad, and big brother Iain Yahner feel very blessed for all the love and prayers that were given to their family during Trips illness. Aileen wrapped it up best by saying, “All those prayers worked miracles.”


Christie Slocum (545 Posts)