MOUNT VERNON — In this world, Camden Meyer is an active 7-year-old from Mount Vernon. But in another world, Camden is a crime fighting superhero that saves the day using in a children’s book called “The Adventures of Team Super Tubie.”
His mother Kristi Meyer penned “The Adventures of Team Super Tubie” to empower children like her son Camden, who grow up with feeding tubes due to chronic health conditions. The book, which was published about a year ago, aims to teach children to celebrate differences through the characters, who have feeding tubes that “are used as these heroes fight fires, battle dragons, and capture bank thieves,” according to the book’s website.
Kristi — a physical therapist and an assistant professor of kinesiology at Cornell College in Mount Vernon — began working on the book shortly after Camden had a feeding tube placed when he was a little over 2 years old.
She said the idea was sparked after she couldn’t find any kid-friendly material for Camden or his older brother Brogan — now aged 10 — on feeding tubes.
“We were then also realizing there’s not a lot of books for kids with feeding tubes, other medical conditions, disabilities, any differences who are the stars of the book,” she said. “If they’re in them, they’re maybe in the background. They’re not even in a lot of books.”
So Kristi said she thought to herself, “this might be a good opportunity to feature some of those kids as the hero.”
The Adventures of Team Super Tubie, which was illustrated by Kevin Cannon and published by Minnesota-based publisher Beaver’s Pond Press, had 1,000 copies published in its first run.
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But before Kristi, with the help of her husband Matt Meyer, began working on the book, both parents were dealing with health complications from their second-born son.
When Camden was about 5 months, doctors found that he was not gaining weight and falling on the growth charts. By the time he was 7 months old, he wasn’t on the growth charts at all.
It was when Camden was a year and a half old when he was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, a chronic autoimmune condition called EoE for short.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, it’s caused by a large number of white blood cells — called eosinophils — in the tissue of the esophagus and essentially causes an allergic reaction when the individual swallows food.
For Camden, that resulted in inflammation, malabsorption and pain when eating.
“The body is basically fighting itself in response to these foods, which is what they think is the main thing triggering it,” Kristi said.
When Camden was 2 1/2 old, doctors surgically implanted a gastrotomy feeding tube that linked from his abdominal wall directly to his stomach.
At the time, Camden weighted 22 pounds. The average child at that age should weight between 27 to 32 pounds.
Nowadays, Camden is an active 7-year-old, his parents say, playing with his three brothers and participating in plenty of activities, including swimming, wrestling and basketball.
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Kristi and Matt say their second son never struggled with self-consciousness or bullying due to the tube, but the parents wanted to create something that helped raise awareness in children that differences can be a superpower.
“We ask him quite a bit, and he’s still positive about (the book). He loves it,” Matt said.
Right now, Matt and Kristi are focusing on treatments for Camden that would get his condition “into remission.” They hope they can introduce enough foods into his diet that don’t trigger a reaction and would be enough nutrition for their son to eventually have his feeding tube removed.
There are no more books on Team Super Tubie in the works, but Kristi says she “has a couple of ideas.”
“The Adventures of Team Super Tubie” can be found on Amazon or through the book’s website, www.supertubie.com.
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