When asked what she admires most about her two younger children, Shannon Fasching said, “Sheer toughness.”
Cooper, 19, and Mallory, 17, have inspired their mom their whole lives.
“They have had some of the worst pokes and prods and are as tough as nails through all of it,” Shannon said.
When Cooper started having seizures at 6 weeks old, Shannon and her husband, Rick, knew something was wrong. Living in Indiana at the time but having grown up in Minnesota, Rick knew about Children’s Minnesota, and together he and Shannon made frequent trips to Children’s Minnesota to get Cooper’s seizures under control.
They were told having a second child with the same condition was one in a million. Eighteen months after Cooper was born, Shannon and Rick welcomed Mallory into the world. Similar to Cooper, Mallory followed the normal track of babyhood for the first six weeks of her life. However, when she projectile vomited across the room at 6 weeks old, Shannon, following her mother’s instincts, knew something was wrong and called the pediatrician. An electroencephalogram (EEG), which tests abnormal electrical activity in the brain, confirmed that Mallory was suffering from the same condition as her brother. Shortly after Mallory was born, the Faschings moved to Minnesota to be closer to Children’s Minnesota and the excellent medical care Minnesota provides.
Diagnosed with a genetic mitochondrial disorder, Cooper and Mallory are unable to walk and talk, but that doesn’t stop them from having a positive impact on their family and those around them every day.
Cooper, the family jokester, loves to laugh.
“If something goes wrong at school, he thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world; he finds humor in everything,” Shannon said. “If Cooper could walk and talk like other children, he would be the class clown and that person other students always want to be around. Everyone gravitates towards him.”
Mallory has a sign above her bed that reads, “I didn’t ask to be a princess, but if the crown fits.” Living up to her title, Mallory enjoys being doted on, especially loving when her family plays with her wild, curly hair or when Shannon does her nails. But most of all, Shannon describes her daughter as “sweet” and “tough.”
“She can be in the hospital with a breathing tube and monitors all over her body and just give you this cute little smile,” Shannon said.
Cooper and Mallory’s older brother, Hudson, who plays hockey for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and played at the University of Minnesota, said, “Those guys are tougher than I’ll ever be.”
The two younger siblings have taught their family to not take anything for granted.
“If I have a bad day, I always come home to them smiling,” Shannon said. “Their smiles make me forget it all, because I know that even if I’ve had a bad day, they’ve worked so much harder throughout their day to do so much less.”
Cooper and Mallory are enrolled in a program at Lakeville North High School that teaches job skills and offers physical, occupational, speech and vision therapies. In a class with six to seven kids who function at levels similar to them, Cooper and Mallory enjoy the socialization aspect of the program.
Before playing for the Gophers, Hudson traveled with USA Hockey’s national team development program in Ann Arbor, Mich., from 2011-2013. This took some getting used to, as Cooper and Mallory frequently attended Hudson’s hockey games when he played for Apple Valley High School.
“After he joined the traveling team, we’d see him for 15 minutes after a game and then we’d get in a car and wouldn’t see him for maybe another month because of road trips and how the program worked,” Shannon said.
When Hudson returned to Minnesota to play for the Gophers from 2013-2015, Cooper and Mallory got to see him almost every Sunday and enjoyed watching his games on TV. It also was a huge deal for Cooper and Mallory’s class at school. Once a week, Cooper and Mallory wore all of their Gophers gear, and the teachers added to it by playing the Gophers’ fight song and checking out Gophers hockey news on the computer.
Wherever Mallory and Cooper go, they seem to exhibit that positive energy, and Shannon and Rick remind themselves every day to be thankful for what they have.
“We know they’re not the typical kids that you rush off to sports or dance or whatever it might be, but we’re so happy we have them,” Shannon said. “I’m not the person I was before I had Cooper and Mallory. They’ve taught me so much.”