During the summer of 2015, five-year-old Kooper Hernandez fell and broke his leg. Moments after the orthopedic team at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas wheeled him into surgery, they discovered something that went far beyond a broken bone. Kooper had cancer in his femur that would require amputation of his leg and chemotherapy treatment.
The news was devastating to his dad, Jon, and his mother, Mindee, who was six months pregnant at the time. They wanted to explain a tumor to Kooper in a way he could understand. He was an avid fan of superheroes and Ninja Turtles. “We told him the tumor was fire, and it was bigger than the Ninja Turtles. Crain is the enemy of the Ninja Turtles, so we told him his leg was filled with lots of Crains. The Ninja Turtles were the chemotherapy that would destroy the Crains.”
Their explanation helped Kooper prepare for the fight of his life. He started chemotherapy in early July, and doctors amputated his leg on September 21. Just four days later, he was out of the hospital and at cancer awareness night on the Jarrell High School football field. Kooper joined another survivor of osteosarcoma—a teen also from Jarrell—to help with the coin toss.
For almost a year, Kooper’s battle was fierce. “Chemo made me really sick, and I kept vomiting,” he says. And he never enjoyed needle sticks. But each time he was admitted to 4North at Dell Children’s for treatment, he surrounded himself with dozens of superhero figures in his hospital room.
“Even the meds they put him on to keep from making him sick made him sick,” says Jon. “But he’s shown many people how to stay strong and positive, just like a superhero.”
Kooper received his prosthetic in mid-March, and his therapist predicted it would take 2-3 years before he would walk without crutches or a walker. But by the end of the school year—just two months later—Kooper was walking on his own! His medical team was impressed with his accomplishment. Now he has set a personal goal to run with his prosthetic, and his family is confident he will master it.
His family says Kooper is proving there are few limitations as to what he can do.
“Right after he got his staples out, he wanted to go on the trampoline and I was hesitant,” says Jon. “I told him to take it easy. He just took off jumping and was up there about five minutes. He said, ‘Dad, watch this,’ and when I turned around, he did a flip. We had a few of his buddies at the house and they were running around. Kooper does things in a different way, but he’s right behind them. Now there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s already shown us that.”
Nothing Can Slow Me Down!
Just like his super heroes, Kooper attributes his strength to his super powers. “I can hop. I can balance. And I can beat cancer,” he says, “and nothing can slow me down!”
“Kooper is most definitely my superhero,” says Jon. “It was a happy day to walk out of 4North at Dell Children’s with our cancer survivor. He leads the pack in optimism. Cancer is a bad situation, and you’ll only make it worse by being negative. All that optimism is coming from Kooper.”
The year 2016 has been an exciting one for Kooper, who is busy being a big brother to his younger sister, Karter, and baby brother, Kreece. In addition to the Jarrell coin toss, he’s thrown out first pitches at University of Texas and Round Rock Express baseball games and traveled with his family to Disney World for his Make-a-Wish trip. He served as an honorary kid for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation head shaving event at Dell Children’s in March. He also enjoys swimming, bowling and trampolines.
For this busy six-year-old, the future looks bright. He dreams of playing baseball for the University of Texas, just like his friend, Cooper Morgan, also from Jarrell. He says he’s going to be a professional baseball player when he grows up. He will also be busy encouraging others to stand up to cancer and spreading hope through his family’s new nonprofit organization, Super Kooper, Inc. The family is planning their first golf tournament this fall.
The Hernandez family knows that nothing—not even cancer—can slow their “Super Kooper” down.
“Kooper is a little six-year-old boy who’s changing the world,” says Jon. “He has brought a whole different dynamic to everyone around him. He’s brought the entire community of Jarrell closer. Once we started his Facebook page, within 24 hours, he had hit five different countries!”