Virginia 3-year-old’s inner superhero Arctic Surge comes to life
By KRISTI K. HIGGINS | The (Petersburg, Va.) Progress-Index | Published: July 30, 2020
CHESTERFIELD, Va. (Tribune News Service) — If you could create a superhero of yourself, what powers would you possess? What would your superhero name be?
Coby Berry, 3, of Chesterfield, had his superhero come to life thanks to the nonprofit You Are The Hero [YATH].
YATH’s mission is providing hope and support to children and families living with chronic illness.
“Thankfully, there are many positives to social media, including all the Facebook groups, which is where we found You Are The Hero,” said Coby’s mom, April Berry. “Another parent of a special needs child posted their hero, and I fell in love and wanted the same for Coby.”
Coby was born at 41.5 weeks with his umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck, cutting off oxygen to his brain, which caused multiple disorders.
YATH founder and lead artist Bryan Dyer, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, had a lifelong interest in superheroes and a passion for creating exciting and engaging artwork for younger audiences.
“For my thesis project during my senior year in college I wrote and illustrated a comic book designed to educate children about Type 1 diabetes,” states Dyer on the YATH website. “It was while working on that project that I came to understand how the lives of millions of children are affected by chronic diseases and disorders.”
“Coby was born limp and blue and has multiple diagnoses due to his birth injury,” said April Berry, who is a nurse. “He had seizures at birth. He was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where they followed a hypothermia protocol, bringing his body temperature down to 93 degrees for 72 hours to prevent further brain damage.
“He was rewarmed and an MRI was completed, which showed he had severe brain damage, only his brain stem was not damaged,” said April. “We were told he would not survive when we removed his breathing tube, and if he did, he would basically have no awareness of his surroundings and be a quadriplegic with total care the rest of his life — only a brain stem keeping his heart and lungs pumping.”
Chesterfield natives April Berry and her husband, Adam, made the challenging decision to sign a DNR [do-not-resuscitate] order for Coby after the medical team painted the following future for their son: severe brain damage, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, quadriplegia, cerebral palsy, a feeding tube, a breathing tube, bladder and bowel incontinence, and no awareness of his surroundings.
“The breathing tube was removed and he survived,” exclaimed April.
Coby’s future was still painted in relatively grim terms despite his response. The Berrys were told he might not survive the night, a week, a month, etc. Coby was discharged home on hospice.
“We signed DNRs for every state from NJ to VA to drive home to be with family for the holidays,” said April.
Adam Berry, who has been in the U.S. Army for 17 years, was granted a compassionate reassignment to return to Chesterfield, closer to their families, until he retires. April Berry, armed with skills to care for her son, made the decision to not work outside of the home. The Berrys also have been blessed with son Lincoln, 2.
“Our friends and family on Facebook have followed Coby’s journey on Facebook from the moment I went in for my scheduled induction. They have followed me along this journey from the start, we have continuously shared his story as so many people have sincerely cared,” said April Berry. “The support I have received from my family and friends has been therapeutic. I enjoy sharing him with all of them.”
Once she learned about You Are The Hero, she decided to take a Facebook poll to see whether their friends would be interested in helping them come up with a superhero name. The options were Arctic Surge, Captain Unstoppable, The Polar Shocker, Super NeuroelectriCoby, and The Amazing Arctic Avenger.
“We told them Coby’s superhero powers were based on the seizures he had at birth — this electrical energy — and the fact he was cooled for three days to 93-ish degrees had to be part of his superhero powers,” said April Berry. “Arctic Surge won at 33 votes.”
Coby’s parents describe his superpowers.
“Superheroes are individuals that can defy odds and inspire others. Coby does all of this and more,” said his father. “He has overcome every obstacle and continues to defy odds. He is not only an inspiration to immediate family, but to people all over. Like most superheroes, he has immense strength and determination along with remarkable mental agility.”
“A superhero is defined as a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers. From the moment Coby was born and the hospital staff forced air into his lungs, he went through more things than most humans have been through in their lifetime,” said his mom. “Not only did he survive, but he lives life with a smile on his face despite his challenges. He captivates people; people just respond to him and instantly fall in love. He inspires me.”
According to April Berry, the free digital illustration arrived in approximately 6 months.
“Some of Coby’s friends have received their superheroes as well,” said April. “We look forward to having Coby’s printed on a poster to hang in his room.”
The Berrys homebrew a superhero beer.
“We are brewing an Arctic Surge beer in Adam’s home brewery, Dogwood Brewing,” said April Berry. “It’s a hoppy pilsner fermented cold and surged with a healthy dose of citra hops.”
“Being a parent is very challenging and a special-needs parent brings on so many additional challenges. My child literally needs help with everything, including feeding and diapers, and I imagine we still have a long road ahead in many areas,” she said. “But to have someone like Mr. Dyer to do something for not only our child, but for the parents, too, means so much.
“Someone to take their time, energy, and effort to come up with something so special using their skills and at no cost — I am thankful for people like him,” she added. “It really does add a bit of brightness to life. There are kind and compassionate people out there.”
“I consider it a privilege to be able to do this and had a great time bringing his superhero to life,” Dyer told the Berrys.
“Coby is his biggest cheerleader and often claps after succeeding at therapy,” said April Berry. “Sometimes, I sit back and realize there is plenty to smile about and we should all celebrate ourselves as much as he does.”
YATH’s superheroes and their stories educate and empower children and inspire communities.
Anyone younger than 20 who is suffering from a chronic illness is eligible. Visit youarethehero.org for more information on how your superhero can receive an illustration.