Boy's operation featured on "


September 19, 2000

Boy's operation featured on "24/7"


photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Cody ShoemakerABC news bills its six-hour documentary of life at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital as a real-life "ER," an inside look at life, and death, in one of the nation's premier hospitals.


At 10 p.m. Thursday, 5-year-old Cody Shoemaker of Hagerstown will be featured on "Hopkins 24/7."

ABC news crews were at Hopkins on Nov. 17, 1999, when Cody had a cochlear implant placed behind his right ear to restore some of his hearing.

The surgery, however, is only a small part of the story.

For Cody's parents, Richard and Michelle Shoemaker, Aug. 9, 1999, and Nov. 17 are days they won't need video tapes to remember.


Aug. 9 is the date on which Cody almost died.

Nov. 17 is the date on which Cody regained his hearing after out-patient surgery at Johns Hopkins. It's also the day Cody's sister, Sara, was born at Washington County Hospital.

It's a story Michelle Shoemaker is prepared to tell Thursday at noon when she and Cody appear on "Lifetime Live" from New York City, and it's a story she hopes is told during "Hopkins 24/7."

The story, Richard said, is a miracle.

The Shoemakers can't pinpoint when Cody lost his hearing. They remember a series of conflicting medical reports, and it wasn't until an auditory brain stem response exam was done on Nov. 1, 1998, that there fears were confirmed. Cody was profoundly deaf in both ears.

They spent months seeking help for their son, and were encouraged when surgeons at Johns Hopkins said he could be a candidate for a $50,000 cochlear implant.

During the surgery, a receiver, a magnetic disk about the size of a quarter, is placed under the skin behind one ear. A wire leads from the receiver to an electrode placed in the fluid of the cochlea in the inner ear.

An exterior microphone and a small sound processing unit help those with the implants hear.

On Aug., 9, 1999, the Shoemakers' world took a dramatic turn. While visiting Michelle's parents, Woody and Vickie Smith of Martinsburg, W.Va., a Subaru sedan rolled over Cody.

"He was black and blue from head to toe. You could see tire marks on his back and second- and third-degree burns on his stomach," Michelle Shoemaker said.

Cody was airlifted to Fairfax Inova Hospital in Virginia where he was treated for his injuries, which included a collapsed and punctured lung.

"He was put on medicine so he couldn't move," Michelle Shoemaker said.

Cody recovered and was scheduled for the implant surgery on Nov. 17, one of the days ABC news crews were filming at Hopkins. They filmed the surgery, then came to Hagerstown to film Cody and Michelle Shoemaker at their South Cannon Street home.

They also filmed Cody during his weekly follow-up visits for speech therapy.

"They asked me how I felt, how this would affect our family," Michelle Shoemaker. "At times I was really nervous."

When the day of the operation arrived, Michelle Shoemaker said she knew she was in labor when she left for Baltimore, but said there "was no way in the world" she planned to miss Cody's surgery. "I'd been through everything else," she said.

After they returned from Baltimore, she gave birth to Sara at 8:30 p.m.

With the surgery behind him, Cody has quickly gotten on with his life. He does most of the normal 5-year-old activities. He attends Eastern Elementary School kindergarten in the mornings, watches TV in the afternoons, teases his 10-month old sister and loves to visit his grandparents.

He also does things many 5-year-olds don't do well, said his parents. He can ride a bike without training wheels and he can play whiffle ball, Richard Shoemaker said.

He also has an ever-expanding vocabulary and his mother noted that you have to be careful what you say around him.

Before the surgery he didn't talk, she said. Now, he gets his parents' attention when he hears helicopters land at Washington County Hospital, and if he wants to eat in the living room and watch TV he says, "me eat TV."

Cody's celebrity status has not seemed to affect him. His parents plan to tape "24/7" and show it to him later when he will understand it all.

Michelle Shoemaker, 27, admits to feeling nervous because the flight from Hagerstown to Manhattan will be the first time she has been on an airplane.

She and Cody will be back in Hagerstown in time to watch "Hopkins 24/7."

The family hasn't decided yet where they will view the glimpse into their lives. They may have a quiet family evening in Hagerstown or drive to Martinsburg where everyone in the family will be gathered around the TV.

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