Two years ago, Miles Cottrell was a regular in the pediatrics unit at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland.
For nine months, the Camas boy, who is now 14, fought leukemia alongside the hospital’s other young patients. Since then, his visits to the children’s hospital have become less frequent.
But earlier this month, Miles and his family made a special trip to the Portland hospital. Rather than receive services, Miles was there to give back.
The teen donated 25 handmade birdhouse kits to the Randall Children’s Classroom — a public school program to support students during their hospitalization and ongoing treatment plans.
“It’s for the kids and making their experience better,” Miles said.
Miles’ first experience with Randall Children’s Hospital came nearly two years ago.
In January 2014, Miles told his mom, Keri Cottrell, that he found a lump the size of a large grape on his collarbone. Miles’ pediatrician assured Keri it was likely a swollen lymph node. Miles was likely catching a cold, and the lump would go away, the doctor told them.
About a month later, though, the lump was still there. Miles went back to the pediatrician, who sent him to see a surgeon. The surgeon immediately removed the lump.
The next day, Keri received a call from the surgeon. Miles had an appointment scheduled for the next day with a cancer doctor at Randall Children’s Hospital. They went to the appointment — what they thought was just a consultation — and learned Miles needed to be admitted to the hospital for one week.
Miles was diagnosed with leukemia.
“It’s a punch to the gut,” said Miles’ dad, Steve Cottrell.
Miles immediately began intense chemotherapy treatment. After six days in the hospital, Miles was released to go home. But doctors told Miles he would be out of school for the following nine months while he underwent numerous rounds of chemotherapy treatment and a two-week course of radiation. Those nine months included regular visits to the hospital for tests and treatment.
“I got a bit used to the poking and prodding,” Miles said. “I just tried to keep a good attitude. That’s what got me through it. SportsCenter helped, too.”
While undergoing his own rigorous nine-month treatment, Miles began thinking of ways to help other kids in the hospital.
“I wanted to do something to give back to the people who helped me,” he said.
Miles and Keri approached the teachers in the seventh-floor classroom and asked how Miles could help. They suggested birdhouse kits, and Miles ran with the idea.
He decided to make the project his Eagle Scout project and got to work soliciting donations from local businesses. He collected cedar for the birdhouse panels, nails and ties for assembly, Ziploc bags to hold the supplies and paper for the instruction manuals.
On a rainy day in October, Miles mass-produced the pieces for the kits — using tools and patterns to cut each of the wood panels and drill the necessary holes. Over the next several weeks, Miles had instruction manuals made, wrote a note about himself and assembled the kits.
Then, last week, Miles and his family delivered the kits to the classroom teachers.
“This is the capstone,” Steve Cottrell said. “A day he’s been looking forward to.”
After completing his nine-month treatment, Miles returned to school in December 2014. He was accepted into the math, science and technology magnet program when he started at Camas High School this fall and also is active in the band program.
Throughout it all, Miles has continued to receive leukemia treatment. He has to undergo two years of maintenance treatment, which includes daily and weekly pills, monthly blood tests, quarterly spinal taps and chemotherapy injections, and antibiotics to ward off infections. His last day of treatment is June 26, 2017.
And despite it all, Miles has maintained his positive attitude.
“He’s been a real inspiration,” Steve said of his son. “He’s been a trooper. … I’ve told him if he can get through this, he can get through anything.”
Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/MarissaHarshman