The coronavirus pandemic stopped the world in its tracks a year ago, but many encouraging survival stories have emerged. One SAU student, Blaise Northern, of DeWitt, Arkansas, is a case in point. After suffering COVID-related multisystem organ failure last fall, Blaise celebrated his birthday in March at an inspirational party thrown by family and friends.
Though limited by the effects of the virus, Blaise expects to return to SAU full-time this fall, something his sister, Addison Bennett, calls miraculous. A junior at SAU, Addison helped take care of her brother when he first began suffering from the virus and helped arrange the party in DeWitt that, in a sense, welcomed him back to life.
“It was good to see Blaise happy and involved again,” Addison said. “Blaise got the social interaction he’d missed out on for so long due to his hospitalization and treatment.”
She, along with her family and Blaise’s close friends, Parker Cram and Adam Blazek, organized the sociallydistanced party. They interacted with Blaise on a limited basis while enjoying food, a campfire, and sharing encouraging words.
“It was a celebration of his life,” explained Addison. “Walking into 2021 with him breathing and alive was a miracle. We sat around a fire and talked about our blessings. Everyone brought their own tent and spent quality time with Blaise. He needed that positivity.”
“Dr. Berry has been so great about keeping in touch, and the nurses at SAU did a great job of keeping an eye on Blaise,” Addison said. “He kept up with his school work online, and we are super-excited about him coming back to classes.”
Blazek said the party was his first chance to hang out with Blaise since the fall. “He’s become one of my best friends,” said Blazek. “We were sorry he couldn’t be around for the fall and spring semesters. As he gets better, he is able to do more things. The party was definitely a milestone in his recovery.”
Cram along with Blazek and Jacob Currie drove to DeWitt to help set up the birthday decorations. “We all came together to celebrate,” Cram said. “We did not know in November if Blaise would make it to his 19th birthday. He battled to stay alive.”
Cram said Blaise is taking physical therapy, working to strengthen his heart. “I’ve been his best friend since first grade, and it was hard for me while he was in the hospital,” said Cram. “Now as he recovers, we cherish every moment. I am grateful my best friend is with us today.”
Addison said she and her family are grateful for the care shown by SAU, particularly Sheryl Edwards, assistant to the president, during Blaise’s battle.
“We definitely chose the right school,” she said.