- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

CALEDONIA, Wis. (AP) - For Cody Struble, it’s all about the kids.

But the thing is, Cody is a kid, The Journal Times (https://bit.ly/2f4ekDd ) reported.

Cody, a 6-year-old first-grader at Raymond School, has undergone three brain surgeries in the past two years at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa.

After his most recent trip to the operating room in September, Cody thanked his doctors and nurses for everything they had done.

“Then he asked what he could do to help the other kids in the hospital,” said Cody’s mother, Sonia Ericksen. “He asked what he could do to give back.”

Cody - a disarmingly direct bundle of energy - decided to collect toys and make sure that every patient who had to be at Children’s during Christmas received gifts.

“Everyone should get presents for Christmas,” Cody said.

Cody and his helpers are gathering the toys at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 322 Ohio St. The donations have already started to pile up, Ericksen said.

“Looks like we might need a bus to take them up there,” said Erica Struble, Cody’s older sister.

Cody, Erica and Ericksen created fliers and distributed them at the church and at Raymond School, which Erica, a sixth-grader, also attends.

“Cody is one of those kids who always seems to go out of his way to make sure others are cared for,” said Raymond School Principal Jordan Hein. “He’s a great little guy. He has had a lot of life experiences, but he has taken the positives out of them and applied them. He’s a real example of it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it.”

Cody will collect donations until Dec. 14, then plans to distribute the gifts at Children’s Hospital either on Dec. 15 or 16, Ericksen said.

Cody certainly got to know the medical facility over the past two years. His extended medical journey began when he had his tonsils and adenoids removed two years ago in Racine. He complained about frequent headaches after that surgery.

X-rays determined that his brain stem wasn’t in the right place, a disorder called Arnold Chiari malformation. Further scans at Children’s showed that Cody’s skull had closed far too early and was not allowing his brain sufficient room to grow, a condition called craniosynostosis.

Three surgeries to correct the problems have left Cody with faint, spidery scars on his head, slightly visible under his crewcut.

Cody said he doesn’t remember much of the surgeries. “I was scared sometimes,” he said. “But I had my special little friend with me.”

The special friend is Oso, a scruffy, stuffed bear who wears three tiny hospital identification bracelets - miniature versions of the ones Cody wore.

Cody had to limit his physical activity following the operation. That was not popular, Ericksen said.

“It was very, very hard for him at first,” she said. “He would cry if he couldn’t do something. How do you hold back a 5- or 6-year-old?”

These days, he kicks the soccer ball with his sister, rides his bike, and plays board games. Ericksen has become ever vigilant for a stumble or fall that could lead to another surgery.

“You need to remind him sometimes,” she said. “I was scared at first because I didn’t know what to expect. Now I’m not as scared, but I still cringe.

“The doctors told me he’s not a little boy, he’s a little man,” Ericksen added. “He’s beyond his years. It’s just how he is.”

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Information from: The Journal Times, https://www.journaltimes.com

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