Two-year-old Brooke Corey is Sheri and Ken Corey’s youngest child. Like her three siblings, she’s a fair-haired, light-skinned child who’s full of energy. At least she was until a few months ago, Sheri said.
“In August, Brooke started to look really pale,” said Sheri, of Mill Neck. “At first I thought, she’s just got my porcelain skin, but I noticed she lost color in her lips, and you could see every vein in her forehead.”
Brooke’s pediatrician diagnosed her with anemia and started her on an intravenous regimen of iron. But far from getting better, Brooke got worse. Within a week she stopped eating, dropping nine pounds in just 10 days. Then she stopped walking, and her knees started to swell.
Since then she has been in and out of the hospital and has seen 30 or more doctors. “They tell us they don’t know what’s wrong,” Sheri explained. “It’s beyond terrifying and frustrating.”
In fact, Sheri has spoken to so many doctors about her daughter’s condition that she decided to write a medical log to outline every visit, every diagnosis and all of the treatments. Three pages long, it gives a stark account of what the past nearly three months have been like for Brooke. For instance, on Aug. 22, Sheri recorded that Brooke stopped eating or bearing weight. On Aug. 23 she began having explosive diarrhea, which lasted nine days.
The log also reflects Sheri’s frustrations with doctors’ inability to determine what is wrong with her daughter and her fears that no one may ever be able to. After one doctor told her that it was as if moths had eaten holes or lesions in Brooke’s bones, Sheri wrote: “If this mystery illness is eating holes/lesions in her bones in 18 days . . . what has it done to her skull???”
What do you do when your seemingly healthy 2-year-old daughter suddenly develops strange, debilitating symptoms and the doctors have no idea what’s wrong?
While the Coreys struggle to find answers, their tight-knit community has rallied around them. When some local mothers heard what was going on, they went to Brooke’s hospital room to tell Sheri that they would like to look after the family’s three other children, Elyse, 11, Kenneth, 9, and Cameron, 8. Dubbed Brooke’s Brigade, the mothers began shuttling the Corey children around to dance lessons, karate and drama club. They cooked dinners for the family, and even started a GoFundMe campaign to help with the Coreys’ mounting medical bills, setting the goal at $15,000.
Brooke’s story also caught the attention of Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who was moved by her heartbreaking ordeal. “This is a girl who’s been through hell and back,” Lafazan said. “She was climbing on the walls and now she’s being fed through a nasal tube.”
He said he immediately wanted to help.
“I was at Winthrop Hospital when I got a call from Josh,” Sheri said. “At first I thought I was in trouble for red-light violations,” she added, referring to Lafazan’s involvement in the local debate over red-light cameras at one of the intersections in town. But the legislator had something different in mind.
At that point, the GoFundMe campaign had accrued about $7,500. The family can only collect the money from donors if they reach their goal of $15,000. Lafazan proposed putting together a fundraiser to raise the rest of the money.
Sheri said she continues to be overwhelmed by the kindness of Lafazan’s offer, and by the fact that so many people she barely knows also want to help.
Lafazan has enlisted 18 local organizations as cosponsors of the fundraiser, including the Oyster Bay Brewing Company, which will host it. Food will be donated by the Coach Grill & Tavern and Spinnakers Restaurant & Bar. And Boy Scout Troop 253 has been busy putting together fliers for community outreach. As for Lafazan, he said he is committed to packing the house.
All of these endeavors bring tears to Sheri’s eyes, particularly the efforts of the Boy Scouts. Her brother, Bruce Smith III, who died suddenly four years ago, was an Eagle Scout. She said he would be proud.