Sick Baby Celebrates 1st Birthday

November 8, 2004 -- Posted at: 11:00pm CST

JONESBORO, AR - Cole Buhrmester's first birthday party looked like most babies' his age. There were balloons, presents and lots of pictures taken; lots of pictures.

"It's hard to believe that we made it this far," said Ray Buhrmester, Cole's father. "That it's been a year already. I mean for us every day has been a slow step and a process of waiting."

One year ago, the Buhrmester's were in a Philadelphia children's hospital. After surviving two surgeries on his chest (one while he was still inside his mother's uterus, and another shortly after he was born) Cole was fighting for his life.

Cali Buhrmester, Cole's sister recalled, "I could not play with him, or touch him or pick him up."

Now Cole and Cali play together every day. An oxygen tube still helps keep the tissue around his heart from thickening -- preventing it from pumping too hard. A feeding tube is also still in place.

"He's had so many invasive procedures in his mouth that he doesn't like to swallow food, but he's growing. He gets it somehow," explained Stefanie Buhrmester, Cole's mother.

The Buhrmester's accept their son's challenges, and celebrate even his smallest accomplishments.

Stefanie added, "He normally gets really sick if he puts food in his mouth. It gags him, and he actually put icing in his mouth and acted like he was smacking on it, so that's the most he's really eaten.. ever!"

Coworkers, family and friends helped raise money for Cole's expenses through a barbecue and a concert. With that support, the Buhrmester family never doubted their preemie wouldn't pull through.

"I would have to thank, you know, it would be a long list, because everybody in the community came together and that was what was special to us you know," added Ray, "You feel like the baby belongs to all of Jonesboro not just us."

"There was never a time that I didn't think it would happen," added his wife, Stefanie. "I don't know if that's just being a mother or just not accepting what the doctors were telling you, but I don't know I just couldn't imagine him not being here."

Stefanie Buhrmester hopes Cole will be able to be weaned from his oxygen and feeding tubes over the next few months as his therapy progresses.