Cohen Bramlee is just eight years old, but has already more than earned the nickname of “Super Cohen.”
In his short life, Cohen has endured countless medical tests and procedures, spent hundreds of nights in the hospital, and received a bone marrow transplant. He’s been flown to the hospital on emergency flights, received countless MRIs, and relies on intravenous nutrition. Through it all, he’s shown incredible bravery, patience, and endurance.
It’s no wonder that the name “Super Cohen” stuck; it’s obvious that Cohen is a hero. However, no superhero should ever have to fight alone, and that’s where Hoxworth Blood Center comes in.
Cohen has spent most of his life in “a diagnostic odyssey,” according to his mother Carrie. “Cohen was born on September 14th, 2012 and is the youngest of five,” she says. “He’s been battling many issues since he was born. Cohen is the first-ever discovered with his still-unnamed disease, which affects his immune and gastrointestinal system. Cohen has intestinal failure, which causes him to be unable to eat food and requires intravenous nutrition, called TPN (total parenteral nutrition.) He also has a genetic bleeding disorder which makes it difficult for his blood to clot.”
Cohen’s early days were spent visiting hospitals and consulting with doctors, as his family desperately tried to manage his illness and get a diagnosis. The Bramlee family lived in West Virginia when Cohen was born, but traveled to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center frequently to meet with the renowned medical team there and receive treatment—which included frequent and plentiful blood transfusions to flood his body with healthy cells.
The process was stressful, Carrie admits, but she also adds that their family has remained strong.
“We have spent hundreds of days apart while Cohen was miles from home inpatient here in Cincinnati,” she says. “Our family has learned to cherish being together and enjoys any activity that allows us to do that often.”
After years of traveling back and forth between West Virginia and Ohio, the Bramlees moved to the Cincinnati area in 2019 to be closer to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, after testing revealed the origin of Cohen’s disease.
“It was 2018, when Cohen was six, that his genetic variant was finally discovered, indicating an immune system disease,” Carrie recalls. “In 2019, we met with Cohen's team and agreed to try a Bone Marrow Transplant in hopes of correcting his immune system. His oldest brother, T.C. (18 years old) actually had his bone marrow harvested through the apheresis process at Hoxworth!”
The bone marrow transplant did not result in the cure they hoped for—"Cohen continues to depend on a significant amount of medical support, spending well over 150 nights in the hospital this year,” according to Carrie—but there are still bright spots throughout this medical odyssey.
“Through social networking, we have been able to locate four other boys believed to share this same disease, and have helped get them to our primary doctor here at CCHMC to receive treatment,” Carrie says. The family has also organized a blood drive event to recruit donors and collect lifesaving blood products in Cohen’s honor.
“I would love to find out how many units of blood products he has received so that our drive can help replace every unit he has needed!” Carrie says. “It has been a significant amount, and Cohen said he would love to tell every person who has given him blood how much their gift means to him. We will never take that gift for granted.”
As Carrie and her family continue to recruit donors and encourage donations, Super Cohen himself has a few words of encouragement for those who haven’t yet rolled up a sleeve.
"It is perfectly okay to be afraid, but just think about all of the children and people's lives you are changing by donating a little bit of blood!” he says. “Lots of times I feel scared too, but I think about how many people care about me and that helps me feel brave. I know you can be brave too."
Superheroes can come in all shapes, sizes and ages—and Carrie hopes that blood donors recognize that though they might not wear capes, she and her family think of them as heroes.
“Every blood transfusion is a life-giving blessing that someone selflessly made to my child,” she finishes. “I don't think anyone will ever truly know what that means to our family. It is one of the most selfless acts of kindness anyone can give and it saves lives. Blood donors are real-life superheroes—just like Cohen!”